The development of offshore wind technology along the Atlantic coast of the United States (U.S.) has raised public concern about the potential effects of electric and magnetic fields (EMF) from undersea power cables on commercially and recreationally important fish species. This white paper provides a summary of the currently available science that addresses the potential effects of EMF from undersea power cables associated with offshore wind energy projects on fish species of concern. This summary has been developed to help the commercial and recreational fishing communities who have concern about the effect of EMF on fish. The report summarizes what is currently known about EMF issues, addresses common concerns and misconceptions, and provides background information about EMF in the environment and the relevance of EMF to fish species of concern in the southern New England area.
Public concern revolves around the potential impacts on fishes from EMF generated by the undersea power cables associated with offshore wind energy projects. Concerns include:
• Identification of species most and least likely to be affected by EMF;
• Potential EMF impacts on different species groups (e.g., closer to the surface [pelagic] or closer to the seafloor [demersal]);
• Potential EMF impacts on fishes during different life stages and behavioral activities (e.g., predation, mating, navigation);
• Cumulative or long-term impacts from EMF;
• Effectiveness of mitigation measures;
• European experience regarding fish impacts from EMF offshore wind energy projects; and
• Characterization of the existing ocean habitat regarding EMF levels.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed multiple studies examining EMF issues and funded several field studies investigating the effects of EMF, the most recent of which include crab harvest and eel behavior. Other agencies and organizations worldwide also have funded studies and workshops to obtain additional data and understand the current level of knowledge regarding potential impacts on marine life from EMF. The current state of knowledge on this topic is summarized below.