The climate crisis is fueling a growing demand in the U.S. for energy resources that are both domestic and renewable. The Biden-Harris Administration has responded by establishing a target of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind generation by 2030. This target has resulted in a rapid expansion of offshore wind (OSW) energy development. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is the Federal agency tasked with ensuring energy resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are developed responsibly. Atlantic wind energy areas (WEAs) that encompass these lease areas occur between 15 and 60 kilometers (km) offshore and extend from the Massachusetts to the North Carolina coasts. This region is also home to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale (NARW), Eubalaena glacialis. OSW energy development presents a range of potential stressors to NARW, including increased ocean traffic, noise, and habitat degradation. To better assess the contribution of OSW energy-related impacts to NARW, this report was commissioned to 1) summarize threats to NARW broadly and in the context of OSW development, 2) provide summaries of methodologies used and studies completed, ongoing, or planned to characterize NARW distribution, behavior, and relative abundance, and 3) solicit opinions from the NARW research community and the OSW industry on research needed to minimize OSW impacts on the NARW and to assess mitigation efforts. The information provided here is expected to contribute to the development of an interagency NARW and OSW strategy aimed at protecting and supporting the recovery of the NARW and the simultaneous responsible development of offshore wind energy. This report contains the following:
● A summary of relevant completed, ongoing, or planned NARW research studies, especially those related to OSW impacts.
● A synthesis of the methodologies used to gather the information contributing to NARW and marine mammal threat and impact assessments.
● An overview of relevant literature and responses from an online survey of a group of representatives of the OSW energy industry, the NARW research community, environmental groups, and state and Federal agencies that provided information about current and planned (within the next five years) research efforts.
● A review of the status of the NARW population and descriptions of the data collection methods, analysis techniques, and modeling efforts used in population monitoring.
● Discussion on the potential impacts of OSW energy development on NARW, research aimed at assessing NARW responses to those impacts, and studies addressing ways to reduce the impacts.
● Concluding comments and recommendations for future action.