Feds unveil plan to grow wind power while sparing rare whale
PORTLAND, Maine — The federal government has outlined a strategy to try to protect an endangered species of whale while also developing offshore wind power off the East Coast.
The administration of President Joe Biden has made it a priority to encourage offshore wind along the Atlantic coast, as the U.S. strives for greater energy independence. These waters are also home the declining North Atlantic right Whale, which is estimated to be around 340 worldwide.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have released a draft plan to preserve the whales and allow for the construction of wind farms. According to the agencies, the continued efforts to save whales and generate more renewable energy can coexist.
“As we face the ongoing challenges of climate change, this strategy provides a strong foundation to help us advance renewable energy while also working to protect and recover North Atlantic right whales, and the ecosystem they depend on,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries
The development of offshore wind is going on along the migratory routes of the whales, which travel from Georgia and Florida to New England and Canada every year. This could make the whales more vulnerable to injury or disturbance. They said they would provide guidance to offshore wind developers about mitigation measures to help them navigate the regulatory process.
The strategy focuses on “improving science and integrating past and present efforts related to North Atlantic right whales & offshore wind development,” according to Jon Hare, director of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the lead author of the document. He said that the strategy also includes mitigation measures for project planning, leasing, and sitting.
Right whales have been in decline in recent years. They are at risk from collisions with ships or entanglement in fishing equipment. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalist groups have called for greater protections for the whales.
The protection strategy is promising but needs funding to implement and measures that minimize harm for the whales, Alison Chase, senior policy analyst at the council, stated. Chase stated that these include noise and speed reductions.
” We need offshore wind, and it is important that we do it right,” Chase stated. “But as we combat climate change, it is essential that we avoid, minimize, or mitigate threats to ocean life in any way we can .”
The government will accept public comments on the draft strategy up until Dec. 4.
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