The Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (RUCOOL) and Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) issued the final report for the 2021 Partners in Science Workshop, which was hosted virtually on January 28, 2021. This workshop, Identifying Ecological Metrics and Sampling Strategies for Baseline Monitoring During Offshore Wind Development, included both a pre-workshop participant survey and “world café” format workshop discussions. The event was co-hosted by RUCOOL and RCE, sponsored by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and moderated by the Consensus Building Institute.
The survey and workshop aimed to gather community input to define the parameters required to quantify baseline ecological variability that will enable the evaluation of potential impacts from offshore wind development. The report details results from the pre-workshop survey, presentations from several workshop participants, and the multiple breakout sessions held during this half-day workshop.
A summary of the main findings includes:
- The pace of offshore wind development is faster than the pace of fisheries science and it is critical that marine fisheries resources and fishing activity are considered during all phases of an offshore wind farm from pre-construction through operations and decommissioning.
- Baseline studies should begin at least 2-3 years prior to construction, with these efforts continuing via monitoring studies for at least 5 years post-construction, and less frequent sampling throughout the life of the wind farm.
- There was a clear consensus that any baseline and/or monitoring study should consider the entire system, from the dynamic oceanographic habitat up through the food web.
- There is a critical need for engaging the broader stakeholder community in developing techniques and survey design that would prevent disruption to existing survey methods once the wind farms are built; this could include instrumentation on the turbine platforms themselves, and/or new methods to fill any gaps within the wind farm areas.
- Studies should be designed and implemented through collaboration with all expert areas, including industry, academia, and state and federal government agencies; regional efforts should be made to coordinate, integrate, and consolidate existing and new data.
- The variability of the ocean makes it difficult to identify clear control areas for studies, particularly around physical and chemical variables; gradient design may be more appropriate.
- Ocean currents and other ocean variables related to the mixing of seasonal stratification (cold pool processes) are important and should be measured throughout the water column.
- Fisheries surveys should be hypothesis-driven, address gaps in existing research, and prioritize species within each study based on site-specific vulnerability.
- Spatial and temporal variability will impact fisheries vulnerability and risks, and the regional scope of development will require coordination in activities between sites.
- There should be a focus on monitoring specific marine mammals and other high conservation species; regional approaches for migratory species should cover night and day and inform knowledge gaps in species life stages.
- Use of and participation in community science sampling should be expanded.
- Cross-cutting each of these priorities was an emphasis placed on baseline and monitoring design that incorporated ecosystem approaches (described below) in a way that leveraged the power of partnerships.
The full report can be found here.