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January 8, 2018

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 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Wind Energe and Whales

Real-time Whale Detection Buoy Near the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area

Mark F. Baumgartner
Tenured Associate Scientist, Biology Department

As we move into a future that will include more alternative sources of energy, there is significant concern about the impact of the survey and construction phases of wind energy development on endangered large whales, such as the North Atlantic right whale. Mitigation of these impacts likely will be required as part of the regulatory environmental compliance requirements, and the use of near real-time passive acoustics to alert developers to the presence of whales may be part of an effective mitigation strategy. Mark Baumgartner, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has developed technology to detect, classify, and report the sounds of large whales in near real-time from a variety of autonomous platforms, including buoys moored to the seafloor.

Baumgartner’s team deployed two whale-detection buoys eight miles southwest of Nomans Land Island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard on the northern fringe of the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area (MWEA), a site under consideration for a wind energy facility. With funds from the Vetlesen Foundation, Baumgartner has been analyzing the data collected by the buoys to evaluate the accuracy of the system and characterize the detection ranges for humpback, sei, fin and North Atlantic right whales using hydrophone arrays capable of localizing individual whale calls. Once the system’s performance and detection range are fully characterized then integrated into a mitigation strategy, this whale monitoring technology will help to reduce the impact of wind energy development activities on large whales passing through the area.

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