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Orsted to Monitor Endangered Right Whales

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 11:25

Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind last week announced a research partnership with Rutgers University, the University of Rhode Island, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution involving acoustic and habitat monitoring of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, which are believed to number around 400, fewer than 90 of them breeding females.

The partnership “will help us better understand the ecosystem and whale activity so we can develop procedures to further protect the right whale during all stages of Orsted’s offshore wind farms,” said Meaghan Wims, an Orsted spokeswoman. “That data will also assist communities in weather forecasting and storm prediction.”

The findings of the Ecosystem and Passive Acoustic Monitoring project will help the development of processes and procedures to protect right whales during the survey, construction, and operation phases of Orsted’s wind farms, according to a statement from the company. Entanglement in fishing gear is the most common cause of death for the whales, followed by other human interference such as boat strikes.

Woods Hole was among the entities that developed a system used for the first time last week, when a right whale calf that had been severely injured, apparently by a ship’s propeller, was given an antibiotic via a syringe fired from an air gun. The calf, one of four observed in the 2019-20 calving season, and was unlikely to survive, according to scientists.

The partners’ three-year project is to use data collected from two sound detection buoys and one experimental buoy that will track marine mammals. The project will also employ an unmanned autonomous underwater “glider” that will send oceanographic data and marine mammal detections to shore.

“Our project will help to minimize the impact of wind farm construction and operation on whales so that both we and the whales can reap the long-term benefits of clean energy,” Mark Baumgartner of Woods Hole said in the statement from Orsted.

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