...to preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders
Regarding the recently-discovered whale carcass in Jamestown (June 23, 2017)
According to information compiled by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), there has been no scientific evidence collected to-date of any whales being injured or stranded due to offshore wind activities. Observed data collected shows that the operation sounds from offshore wind turbines generate sounds that are relatively low (approximately 134 decibels at the Block Island WF site) when compared with other sounds. For comparison, rainstorms range in the 100-120 decibel level, and fishing vessels create sounds that range from 150 to 190 decibels.
Baleen whales do not use sonar to navigate or feed, and are classified as low-frequency (10 Hz to 31 kHz) vocalizers, and generally produce grunts, moans and pulse trains to communicate. The operational underwater noise measured at the Block Island Wind Farm can possibly be heard by whales over short distances, but is expected to not be heard beyond a few hundred meters from the foundation.
Scientific literature based on data collected in the United Kingdom states that “underwater noise from operation wind facilities is not considered significant.”
BOEM said it plans to continue to monitor and assess potential impacts related to the construction and operation of wind farms on marine life, specifically whales, through the Environmental Studies Program and data collected from lessees and state and federal partners.
July 10, 2017
TO: Editor/Christian Winthrop/Newport Buzz
RE: Response Letter to June 24, 2017 online entry: “Block Island Wind Farm May Have Killed Young Humpback Whale”
Response Letter: To the Editor:
In response to the June 24, 2017 piece, “Block Island Wind Farm May Have Killed Young Humpback Whale,” several of us, researchers at the University of Rhode Island (URI), feel it is important to explain from a scientific view why it is highly unlikely the whale’s death had anything at all to do with a turbine from the Block Island Wind Farm. Since 2007, when we undertook significant studies, through the rigorous Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) process, to understand how wind farms could impact ocean animals, including whales, we have learned a great deal about what does, and doesn’t, pose threats to them. This information has been widely shared through the years, and we’re pleased to share it once more. Here are some key facts, from both biological science and acoustical science perspectives – both integral to understanding how human technology interacts with marine animals – and we’re sharing several peer‐reviewed, academic papers at the end of this, should people want to read more extensively:
Much of the information in the June 24 article is wrong or inaccurate; we do not find it helpful to reemphasize these inaccuracies, but it’s worth noting a few general, widely known points useful for the public. For example, neither Humpback nor Minke whales use echolocation (sonar) at all, and Minkes do not live in “families” and are, essentially, not social. Also, the humpback Unusual Mortality Event (UME) started over a year ago, so this should have specified “since January 2016,” rather than compressing the mortalities from 18 months to 6 and tripling the apparent rate. And finally, the average number of humpback strandings per year before this death or UME, and before there were any wind turbines in operation along the East Coast, was about 11.
We welcome any questions people may have, and are pleased to provide these resources, some of the key data for the facts above, for anyone to read:
Thank you for sharing this information with your readers – it’s important that people care for ocean animals and other issues, but they need the best available science in order to do so.
Bob Kenney, Ph.D, Emeritus Marine Research Scientist, URI Graduate School of Oceanography (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jim Miller, Sc.D, Professor of Ocean Engineering and Oceanography, University of Rhode Island (email@example.com)