The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and states on the U.S. Atlantic coast are interested in and responsible for facilitating the development of offshore wind energy while minimizing impacts to marine resources and existing fishery uses. As part of the siting, design, and permitting process for offshore wind projects, BOEM and some states require developers to prepare various project monitoring plans to characterize, evaluate, and monitor the potential impacts to affected physical and biological resources (fisheries, benthic/habitat, protected species, etc.) and fishing operations from proposed offshore wind development. These project monitoring plans and associated studies help provide the scientific information BOEM and other agencies need to determine how wind farms may affect marine resources.
This document was developed by a working group representing several sectors involved in fisheries and wind development, including state and federal government fisheries managers, fisheries scientists, fishing industry representatives, and offshore wind developers. This framework and guidelines build on existing BOEM guidance, outlining the fundamental elements to include in offshore wind fisheries project monitoring plans and associated studies for commercial-scale offshore wind farms and identifying the primary resources to help draft and review such plans. Based on existing BOEM guidance and best practices developed to date, this document will help:
1. Streamline project monitoring plan development and review by providing comprehensive standardized recommendations for monitoring marine resources affected by offshore wind development projects
2. Ensure project monitoring plans and supporting studies are effectively designed to provide necessary information that can be used to understand and minimize adverse impacts on marine resources from offshore wind development consistent with established BOEM, NMFS, and state guidelines, best science practices, and decision maker and developer data needs
3. Encourage the use of standardized protocols to collect and analyze biological and environmental data that can be integrated with existing survey data and other research
4. Support the integration of monitoring efforts across multiple spatial and temporal scales (site-specific to regional/ecosystem and before/after construction)
5. Focus monitoring efforts on important commercial and recreational species, habitats, and other resources that may be impacted by or vulnerable to offshore wind development
6. Encourage proactive engagement, collaboration, and involvement among state and federal agencies, research institutions, wind developers, and fishery members and representatives
This guidance is a living document that will evolve and grow as Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA) members, including BOEM, NMFS, and states, continue to identify critical monitoring questions and refine existing guidelines, methods, and best practices. This document presents an overarching monitoring framework and guiding principles, with details for supporting studies on particular topics of interest, including fishery resources, habitat, and socioeconomic impacts. Further information regarding benthic habitat and socioeconomic monitoring studies will be included in future iterations of this document.