The objective of this study was to characterize the risk of vessel strikes on large whales and sea turtles from different vessel types that operate in support of the current leased and unleased OCS wind energy areas (“wind farms”) in the Atlantic and to develop a model that accounts for geospatial, temporal, and species-specific parameters in the vessel operations area for these wind energy areas.
The study was conducted in four stages. The first stage characterized the baseline conditions for vessel traffic along the Atlantic OCS and within “wind farms”, including vessel types, operational parameters, and operational behavior of the vessels during different stages of offshore wind development (e.g., surveys, construction, operations). Additionally, the first stage developed an analytical framework that used existing data to calculate encounter numbers based on species information, including density, behavior, vessel parameters, geographic area, and development stage of offshore wind. The second stage assessed and identified the quantitative parameters used to calculate strike risk and developed an analytical model enumerating potential encounter numbers for large whales and sea turtles within userdriven scenarios. In the third stage, a geographic user interface (GUI) that operates with the model was developed to allow users to create complex scenarios of vessel activity which interacts with animal density distributions. The GUI also provides access to text reports of the expected encounter values generated by the model using the scenario inputs and encounter risk heat maps displayed in a geographic context. The potential for an actual strike can be simulated through manipulation of vessel activity and animal behavioral response to vessels. The fourth stage developed the capacity of the GUI to allow aggregation of model results from multiple, user-defined scenarios.