50-21 A Process for Developing Monitoring Standards to Assess the Effects of Offshore Renewable Energy on Fisheries

Tuesday, September 6, 2011: 2:15 PM
602 (Washington State Convention Center)
Sarah L. Smith , Coastal Resources Center, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI
David Beutel , RI Coastal Resources Management Council, Wakefield, RI
Offshore wind energy and other forms of offshore renewable energy are proliferating overseas and are soon to be implemented at commercial scales in the United States, yet little is understood about the environmental effects of offshore renewable facilities in the marine environment. While some monitoring has taken place at various demonstration projects and European developments, monitoring activities have been limited and done largely on an ad hoc basis. A set of comprehensive monitoring protocols addressing the potential effects of offshore renewable energy devices has yet to be developed, and should be viewed as necessary to proceed with the large-scale implementation of offshore renewable energy projects in the United States.

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island are working to develop data collection processes and standards which would be used along with existing tools, such as environmental impact statements, to evaluate the impacts of potential projects on the ocean environment. These protocols will be designed for use nationwide, and to be applicable to each of the emerging forms of offshore renewable energy. The resulting data will be standardized to allow for comparison between regions, or among projects.

Among those standards being developed are monitoring protocols for the effects to fisheries, including both the fish and the fishermen, from offshore renewable energy development. This paper discusses some of the identified potential effects, and the process of developing monitoring protocols to address those potential effects, including noise, reef effects, displacement, and electromagnetic fields. A comprehensive monitoring strategy includes the collection of baseline data, as well as monitoring during the construction, operation, and decommissioning stages at a range of spatial and temporal scales. These standards are designed to be scaled up, from monitoring a single wind turbine or other renewable energy device to the effects of multiple offshore renewable energy facilities within a region. A set of preliminary protocols to monitor the effects to fisheries from offshore renewable energy will be discussed, including the feasibility and regulatory significance of each.

This research process has entailed partnering with state and federal fisheries management agencies, existing fisheries trawl survey programs, and commercial and recreational fishermen to develop standards that have the support of the scientific, regulatory, and fishing communities. This collaborative and iterative methodology for designing monitoring standards will be elucidated. Next steps in protocol development, including a strategy for protocol testing, will also be discussed.