NY In last summer, big chunks of the Peconic Bay scallops died…almost every adult scallop died. Of course, climate change was blamed, but in reality, nobody knows what happened. Is the same thing happening in Elephant Trunk? Why are scallop fisheries along the Trunk experiencing die-off?
There are some watermen that blame windmill companies such as US Wind, Maryland’s offshore developer. They currently have two contracts with the state. Crews have been out in the ocean for several months, as part of a federal requirement. Vessels tow equipment to map the seafloor to determine where to put turbines. The company uses what is known as ‘AIS’ tracking, which is an Automatic Identification System.
There is considerable concern that human-produced (anthropogenic) sounds added to the environment could have damaging effects on marine life. While much of the interest has focused on marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales, there is growing interest in the effects of these sounds on fish.
Arthur N. Popper, biology professor at the University of Maryland and expert in fish hearing, and Michele Halvorsen, Ph.D., University of Maryland Research Associate, conducted research on systems used by the Navy, such as Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar, which uses frequencies from 100 to 500 hertz, the range of best hearing of many fish species. The research found that exposure to high intensity, low-frequency sonar did not kill rainbow trout used for testing, nor did it damage the fishes’ auditory systems, other than for a small and presumably temporary decline in hearing sensitivity. However, Popper says the findings “should not be extrapolated to other fish species or the effects of other sound sources.”
The effects of sound on fish could potentially include increased stress, damage to organs, the circulatory and nervous systems,” says Popper. “Long-term effects may alter feeding and reproductive patterns in a way that could affect the fish population as a whole.”
Groups such as the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), along with many other commercial fishing associations and businesses across the country issued recommendations to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for reducing impacts from offshore wind energy development to fishing, coastal communities, and sustainable domestic seafood production. They believe strong mitigation requirements must be standardized to protect marine resources and existing uses of the Outer Continental Shelf.
What happened to scallops in Peconic Bay and now in Elephant Trunk is still not confirmed. The disruption caused by so much high-intensity sonar work, and how it is affecting the marine environment needs closer inspection.