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New Study Uses Electronic Tags To Explore Relationship Between Fish Behavior And Offshore Wind Energy Construction

This first study of its kind, results will fill knowledge gaps to better inform fisheries and wind energy construction practices in the Atlantic Ocean

A new cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will enable scientists to implement a first-of-its-kind study investigating fish behavior in response to offshore wind turbine installation and related construction activities. This study will use fine-scale positioning technology and be conducted at the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) research site, located approximately 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Developed and operated by Dominion Energy, CVOW is the second offshore wind farm operating in the United States with two existing turbines and 176 more on the way.

Between now and 2027, TNC’s marine scientists in Virginia, Kate Wilke and Brendan Runde, will partner with acoustics and fisheries experts from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center on fieldwork and analysis to understand how local fish populations react to offshore wind development. This includes examining fish response to construction noise, the value of new vertical structures as fish habitat, and whether substrate areas with buried transmission cables are used or avoided by tagged fish. Further, researchers will monitor the ambient soundscape — all the natural, biological, and human-generated sounds — in the area to document changes that occur during the expansion of the CVOW site.

“Given the expansion of wind energy development along the East Coast, our team at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center is excited to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy and to support this important work,” said Jon Hare, Ph.D., Director of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center. “This research will help fill gaps in our understanding of how offshore wind development interacts with commercial and recreational fisheries, and will broaden our marine soundscapes research.”

The study results — including at least two publications — will be made publicly available for environmental impact assessments of future offshore wind projects and inform management of such projects. Understanding the value of the turbines as vertical habitats will also have implications on future fisheries management, including monitoring protocols and surveys.

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