Bay State Wind, which is working to bring clean, renewable and affordable energy to Massachusetts, announced plans to provide more than $2 million in grants for research and programs to protect New England’s fisheries and whale populations.
The grants include $1 million for a Bay State Wind Marine Science Grant Program for directed fisheries resources research on the Bay State Wind lease area. Funded projects will focus on addressing specific questions and concerns raised by the fishing industry.
In addition, the Woods Hole Oceanography Institute would receive a $500,000 multi-year grant for the development of advanced whale detection systems, and the New England Aquarium Right Whale Research Project and the Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts would each receive $250,000 to prevent gear entanglement of the North Atlantic Right Whale.
“These grants demonstrate Bay State Wind’s commitment to environmental responsibility,” said Whale Biologist Laura Morse, Environmental Manager for Bay Sate Wind. “We are taking steps to strengthen the population of the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is weakened by boat strikes and fishing gear entanglements. In addition, Bay State Wind will address two of the main threats to marine life — rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification — with the clean energy that its wind farms will produce.”
Bay State Wind is the only offshore wind developer in Massachusetts that employs a full-time marine biologist. In addition, John Williamson, a leading voice in commercial fishing, is Bay State Wind’s liaison to fisherman.
“The Lobster Foundation is looking forward to providing an industry perspective to cooperatively develop a range of safe, reasonable and economical solutions to mitigate interactions with the large whales,” said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen Association.
“I am pleased that Bay State Wind is seeking to use near real-time passive acoustic monitoring to help mitigate the effects of construction activity on the seriously endangered North Atlantic Right Whale,” said Mark Baumgartner, Associate Scientist of the Biology Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “WHOI’s state-of-the-art technology, when used together with other monitoring approaches, can help alert Bay State Wind and other wind energy developers of the whales’ presence so that the developers can take precautions to mitigate ship strikes and noise exposure to the whales.”
Also included in Bay State Wind’s grant program is a $5,000 annual grant lasting five years to the Whale Alert Project for the refinement of the Whale Alert System to prevent lethal ship strikes.
“Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales face grave danger from ship strikes and a host of other threats,” said Patrick Ramage, director of the Marine Conservation Program of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a leader in the Whale Alert Project. “This grant will help us do a better job protecting these critically endangered animals and conserving the marine habitat on which their survival, like our own, depends.”
The other grants and initiatives include:
- Center for Coastal Studies — $5,000 annual grant (up to 5 years) for the Marine Debris Program to promote marine waste reduction and recycling initiatives.
- National Ocean Science Bowl/Blue Lobster Bowl — $5,000 annual grant (up to 5 years) to support the highly regarded high school Ocean Science Education Program and encourage students to enter into the renewable energy field.
- Mitigation and Monitoring Advisory Panel — Bay State Wind will develop a panel that includes North Atlantic Right Whale specialists, acousticians and environmental representatives to help build a mitigation and monitoring plan.
Bay State Wind is a 50-50 partnership between Ørsted, the world’s largest developer and operator of offshore wind farms, and Eversource, New England’s leading electrical transmission company. Together, they are bidding to launch the nation’s offshore wind industry by building the first commercial-scale wind farm in the country 25 miles south of New Bedford. The environmental research grants will be awarded upon Bay State Wind’s selection as a developer for the offshore wind farm.
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