The 2020 State of the Science Workshop, hosted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), was held virtually from November 16-20, 2020. This workshop brought together over 430 stakeholders engaged with environmental and wildlife research relevant to offshore wind energy development. The aim of the workshop was to assess the state of the knowledge regarding offshore wind development’s potential cumulative impacts on wildlife populations and ecosystems. For this effort, cumulative impacts were defined as interacting or compounding effects across spatiotemporal scales, caused by anthropogenic activities relating to the development and operation of multiple offshore wind energy facilities, that collectively affect wildlife populations or ecosystems (see call-out box for definitions of "effects" and "impacts"). Attendees included a wide range of stakeholders from offshore industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia. More information can be found at http://nyetwg.com/2020-workshop.
Following the plenary sessions in November, workshop attendees formed seven taxon-specific workgroups focusing on benthos, fishes and mobile invertebrates, birds, bats, marine mammals, sea turtles, and environmental change. Workgroups, under the guidance of lead technical experts, met virtually in late 2020 and early 2021 to identify scientific research, monitoring, and coordination needs to improve our understanding of cumulative impacts from offshore wind energy development. The goal for each group was to identify a list of studies that could be implemented in the next five years to position the stakeholder community to better understand potential cumulative biological impacts as the offshore wind industry develops in the eastern U.S.
The intended audience for this report encompasses a range of stakeholders including researchers, state and federal agencies, offshore wind energy developers, regional science entities, and other potential funding entities that could potentially target these priorities for future funding. The priorities identified below should not be interpreted as research that must occur prior to any development activity. Rather, these priorities are intended to further inform environmentally-responsible development and minimize cumulative impacts over the long term, and many of these research needs are specifically directed at understanding and measuring effects as the industry progresses.
Workgroup members represented a wide range of perspectives including (but not limited to) offshore wind developers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, the fishing industry, academia, and consultants, provided key input based on their respective specialties. Workgroup meetings included presentations as well as small and large group discussions to identify and prioritize key topics of interest. Workgroup members also provided input on the relative priority of different topics via live polls during meetings and/or online surveys between meetings. All workgroup documents were shared with workgroup members via a document collaboration platform (e.g., Google Drive, Microsoft Teams), and workgroup members had multiple opportunities over the course of several months to provide written input on earlier drafts of this report. The report indicates a general consensus among workgroup members, unless otherwise noted; where there was stated disagreement among workgroup members on a recommendation in this report, this disagreement is noted in the text. Despite the substantial input and influence of workgroup members on the workgroup reports, final report content was determined by the technical leads, in some cases with support from an additional small subgroup of experts within the group.
The fishes and aquatic invertebrates workgroup leaders were Arthur N. Popper (Professor Emeritus & Research Professor, University of Maryland, and Environmental BioAcoustics, LLC) and Lyndie HiceDunton (Executive Director, Responsible Offshore Science Alliance), with technical and logistical support from Kate Williams, Edward Jenkins, and Julia Gulka (Biodiversity Research Institute) and others (Cadmus Group). The workgroup consisted of 42 workshop attendees (Appendix A). More information about the workgroups can be found at https://www.nyetwg.com/workshop-workgroups.
During the time in which this workgroup operated, there were several other research prioritization efforts around offshore wind energy development and fishes that had the potential to overlap with this group, including the State of the Science benthos workgroup (working concurrently with this fishes group; Degraer et al. 2021), as well as several groups involved in developing a white paper for the Fisheries and Offshore Wind Energy: Synthesis of the Science effort, which was discussed during Session 8 at the November State of the Science workshop. Given these factors, and based on the results of the online survey indicating group members' areas of expertise, workgroup leads chose to focus this workgroup primarily on effects from sound and vibrations. Workgroup members that were primarily interested in topics such as electromagnetic fields (EMF) and benthic disturbance joined the benthos workgroup (Degraer et al. 2021).