Given the forecasted rapid pace and broad scope of offshore wind development (OSW) in the U.S. and globally, there is a need to synthesize current and past scientific research that has examined the interactions between OSW, fisheries, and the marine ecosystems. The research community has built and continues to build a scientific knowledge base around offshore wind topics. Compiling this information and identifying knowledge gaps will provide a comprehensive understanding of offshore wind science to date and illuminate the path forward for scientific research. From 2020-2022, NOAA Fisheries and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) partnered with the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) on the “Synthesis of the Science: Fisheries and Offshore Wind Energy,” bringing together the agencies, states, fisheries representatives, and offshore wind developers to start this task. This effort is meant to support diverse parties in co-producing knowledge by identifying potential future research needs and priorities.
This Synthesis of the Science (SoS) focused on 5 topics collectively identified by the project partners as critical for consideration in relation to OSW: ecosystem effects, fisheries socioeconomics, fisheries management and data collection, methods and approaches, and regional science planning. The project consisted of 2 integrated components: a virtual workshop and this published report, which together have the overarching purpose of enhancing regional and national understanding of existing science and data gaps related to offshore wind interactions with fish and fisheries. The steering committee was composed of individuals from RODA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), BOEM, the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA), and an offshore wind developer representative. The overall project goals include:
- introducing fisheries science, management, and industry experts to the topic of offshore wind energy and fisheries interactions in order to inform their work, leverage existing knowledge, create networks among interested professionals, and develop effective approaches to short- and long-term cross-disciplinary challenges;
- providing a model of best practices for successful engagement of the fishing industry in complex scientific processes and setting research and monitoring agendas;
- integrating offshore wind energy development into existing science and research efforts in the field of fisheries science and management;
- establishing a shared body of understanding and knowledge on offshore wind energy and fisheries interactions;
- identifying data and knowledge gaps relevant to the study of marine fisheries biology and behavior, ecosystem function, and fisheries operations for use in future scientific and policy decisions;
- providing fora for open discussion to set relevant research and monitoring priorities for impacts to fish and fisheries; and
- promoting future collaborative work across disciplines and sectors.
The SoS workshop was held October 14-16th and 30th, 2020. Over 550 participants from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines participated through the Zoom platform. The workshop presented a high-level overview of key topics by section, initiated dialogue to frame issues and facilitate research networks, and identified important groups to work with the authors during the drafting process to ensure inclusive representation in the report drafting. Daily agendas, workshop summaries and videos of panel discussions are available on RODA’s website.
This report synthesizes available information compiled by subject matter experts regarding the interactions between offshore wind and fisheries. The primary focus was on fixed turbine technology; interactions with floating turbine technology were briefly addressed during the workshop and are currently being more fully evaluated in a separate project led by RODA. This report strives to synthesize the existing knowledge on ecosystem, socioeconomic, and fisheries management/data collection effects, and methods/approaches for research and monitoring in order to examine how fisheries and fisheries resources interact with offshore wind. These topics are strongly interrelated, and while this may give the perception that more emphasis is placed on some topics than others, it was our intention to focus on areas of study that are relevant to understanding offshore wind interactions. The report focuses on the U.S. but incorporates global expertise whenever possible. The authors attempted to identify gaps in knowledge and, when possible, make specific recommendations for future research needs to enhance our understanding of offshore wind interactions. The result was intended to be a shared body of knowledge for industry, regulators, and fisheries managers to draw from. The report is not an annotated bibliography of every research project conducted to date.
The Steering Committee assigned section leads from the Committee, who were knowledgeable in the subject matter, who then identified and coordinated a set of authors for each section. Authors endeavored to address a standardized set of topics in each report section: (1) introduction; (2) description of the state of knowledge and understanding on this topic with regard to OSW interactions; (3) major gaps in knowledge; (4) characterization of the perspectives of commercial and recreational fishing communities on this topic; and (5) recommendations for future directions or studies. Due to wide differences in the nature, quantity, and quality of available research, some sections depart from this strict outline. For each section, RODA identified fishing advisors (fishermen with specialized expertise relevant to the section) to support the report’s development by serving as authors, reviewers, and sources of important input and feedback. Peer review was conducted by the scientific community. This single-blind process was managed by ROSA with support from RODA.
Peer review placed emphasis on scientific rigor and integrity and strove to mirror the peer review process of scientific journals. Once RODA determined that authors had sufficiently addressed reviewers’ comments, the report was submitted into the NOAA internal technical review process where it underwent additional peer review. Authors further addressed comments made by reviewers at NOAA after which the report was published as a NOAA technical memorandum.