Good morning! Wildlife Conservation Society Expands Whale Watching Project in NY Bight • Brooklyn Paper

The The Wildlife Conservation Society is expanding its Ocean Life Watching Program, which monitors various species and activities of whales in New York Bay and allows the public to hear the activity of ocean giants in near real time at the New York Aquarium on Coney Island.

The expansion – announced Thursday by WCS and New York Aquarium partners – will add to WCS’s first effort to help track and protect New York’s whales, the Ocean Giants program. Since the program launched in 2019 with Empire Wind, twoacoustic monitoring buoys off the coast have already collected more than 2,000 days of data and detected more than 18,000 whale sounds in New York waters.

Two monitoring buoys have already captured more than 18,000 whale sounds since the program began in 2019. The expanded program will continue through 2028, providing data on whale activity before, during and after project construction Empire Wind. Julie Larsen Maher/WCF

WCS, a non-profit wildlife organization headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, and their conservation partner – Equinor, the Norwegian energy company behind the future wind turbine assembly plant at South Brooklyn Marine Terminal hope the expansion of the program will continue to help bridge the gap between marine life and the general public.

According to Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Senior Scientist and Director of the Ocean Giants Program, the data from this first study has already brought needed attention to animals off the coast of New York – and detected four known species of whales in the local waters. By increasing their observation, Rosenbaum said, New Yorkers will be better informed about the impact of their lifestyle on ocean life.

“The availability of this data will help guide decision-making and best practices for offshore wind development and other human activities in New York Bay,” Rosenbaum said from the rooftop of the South Brooklyn Aquarium. . “From our work, we have shown that these whales spend more time in these waters and migrate through these waters, certainly more than we previously thought.”

Dr. Howard Rosenbaum works as the lead scientist on WCS's marine life monitoring program.
Dr. Howard Rosenbaum works as the lead scientist on WCS’s marine life monitoring program. He says their program has already detected 4 species of whales in New York Bay. Photo by Jada Camille

The monitoring program will now continue until 2028, after the commissioning of Empire Wind, a new offshore wind energy project. The expanded timeline will allow scientists to track whale activity and behaviors before, during and after construction.

Scott Lundin, head of US permits and environmental affairs at Equinor, said the buoys help the public better understand whale migration patterns – and the amount of wildlife already detected only underscores the importance of the program.

After reviewing their findings, WCS scientists then share the information with Equinor to discuss actions or policies to take to better care for the animals. Real-time detections are then sent to the New York Aquarium, allowing the public to learn about the whales in their own backyard at an interactive kiosk.

“We are learning so much and will continue to monitor the Empire Wind rental area and the wider New York seascape for any new and important discoveries about the most iconic and endangered whales on the planet,” said Rosenbaum.

The lead scientist said the four species of whales found so far are the Sei, Fin, Humpback and a particularly endangered North Atlantic whale, a species that has less than 350 existing people today.

Aquarium visitors can hear whale sounds in real time on the interactive kiosk made available by WCS and Equinor.
Aquarium visitors can hear whale sounds in real time on the interactive kiosk made available by WCS and Equinor. Photo by Jada Camille

The work of the conservation society will work in tandem with the offshore wind energy project, using data from whales in the New York Bight.

A competitive bidding was issued by NYSERDA to create at least 2,000 additional megawatts of offshore wind power for New Yorkers and meet New York’s renewable energy goal.

Rosenbaum believes the increased development of offshore wind is a vital source of renewable energy and the two programs look forward to working together.

“Offshore wind developers are poised to be catalysts for positive change in the eyes of New York, the federal government and our broader civil society,” he said. “America is watching as large offshore wind projects take shape off the East Coast.”

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