via James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory, NOAA Fisheries

USA - NOAA Scientists Study How Offshore Wind Construction Noise May Affect Black Sea Bass

Scientists at federal fisheries laboratories are investigating how sound generated by the construction and operation of offshore wind turbines may affect black sea bass – a valuable species in the Northeast that is attracted to underwater structures like turbine foundations.

“No one knew for sure how much black sea bass can hear and how that changes as they age,” said Beth Phelan, a fishery biologist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s laboratory at Sandy Hook, N.J. and a co-author of the study, in a narrative published online by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We do know that black sea bass are attracted to underwater structures, and have anecdotal information that they move away from noise. We had to first determine the range of sounds they can hear by giving them a type of hearing test, much like we do to humans.”

Black sea bass typically congregate around hard structure, including docks, jetties and shipwrecks, and recreational fishermen and charter captains target them around the Block Island Wind Farm turbines off Rhode Island. The species supports a commercial fishery from the Mid-Atlantic into southern New England, and with waters warming in the Northeast black sea bass are extending their range into the Gulf of Maine.

Researchers used 20 black sea bass for the study, collected from the wild in waters off Massachusetts and New Jersey. They held the fish in flow-through saltwater tanks at seasonal temperatures at the science center’s James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory at  Sandy Hook, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., both long known studying fish physiology and behavior.

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