A new study by scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Cornell University and Duke University is the first in a series to understand how marine mammals like porpoises, whales, and dolphins may be impacted by the construction of wind farms off the coast of Maryland. The new research offers insight into previously unknown habits of harbor porpoises in the Maryland Wind Energy Area, a 125-square-mile area off the coast of Ocean City that may be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm.
(From Science Daily) — Offshore wind farms provide renewable energy, but activities during the construction can affect marine mammals that use sound for communication, finding food, and navigation.
“It is critical to understand where marine mammals spend their time in areas of planning developments, like offshore wind farms, in order to inform regulators and developers on how to most effectively avoid and minimize negative impacts during the construction phase when loud sounds may be emitted,” said Helen Bailey, the project leader at the UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.
Scientists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science used underwater microphones called hydrophones to detect and map the habits of harbor porpoises, one of the smallest marine mammals. Bailey describes harbor porpoises as “very shy” ranging 4 to 5 feet long with a small triangular fin that can be hard to spot. They swim primarily in the ocean, spending summers north in the Bay of Fundy and migrating to the Mid-Atlantic, as far south as North Carolina, in the winter. There are about 80,000 of them in the northwestern Atlantic.
“There was so little known about them in this area,” said Bailey. “It was suspected they used the waters off Maryland, but we had no idea how frequently they occurred here in the winter until we analyzed these data.”
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