But the line between the move to green energy and the ongoing protection of wildlife, particularly at-risk species, has never been finer.

The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) has succeeded in protecting 99% of at-risk species under its protection from extinction. While reversing the decline of endangered and threatened species is the first step, ongoing monitoring is vital for their future success.

APEM Inc support responsible offshore wind developers to pre-emptively mitigate the effects to wildlife. By providing accurate, robust data on where the most endangered species are, we can help developers plan to avoid disturbance, and thus limit the risk of compensatory mitigation impact to both developer and wildlife.

The latest round of offshore wind auctions saw 373,000 acres of the Pacific Ocean off California leased to floating wind developers. Here’s how the wildlife in the area might be affected by floating wind development, and how we can mitigate the effect on them.

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Image of a manta ray taken from an aircraft during an ultra-high resolution digital aerial survey by APEM Inc

Fish

Offshore wind developments may affect the breeding and migration habits of fish and the species that prey on them. Migrating species such as Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are prey to killer whales (Orcinus orca), sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and sharks including the aptly-named salmon shark (Lamna ditropis). Therefore, establishing fish behavior patterns early also informs developers about the potential presence of their predators.

Marine mammals

The West Coast is home to over 30 species of marine mammals, from cetaceans including killer whales (Orcinus orca) and humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), which were recently delisted from the ESA, to pinnipeds such as northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus).

Marine mammals can be affected by construction work as well as the physical presence of turbines, so surveying should take place for habitat use and baseline data on existing and potential development sites. APEM Inc provide a range of monitoring and mitigation of marine mammal activities on site during production, installation and survey events.

Marine reptiles

East Pacific green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Juvenile and adult green turtles are present in many of the bays, lagoons, and coastal inlets of Southern California. Loggerhead turtles and leatherback sea turtles have hatching grounds all along the West Coast of the US, as well as Olive Ridley sea turtles and hawksbills, who depend on coral for foraging.

Birds

Before offshore development work starts, it is essential to fully understand the environment and habitats. A desk-based study will provide evidence about whether the site may cross or interact with, coastal, intertidal and nearshore sites with ornithological interests. A wide array of wildlife survey data may be available for contextual understanding prior to completing best survey design plan for an offshore wind development.

We collect data on ocean flying birds to assess their risk of collision, from razorbill (Alca torda) and guillemot (Uria aalge) to the endangered short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus). But near-coastal areas are as important: California’s rocky coastline provides a habitat for specialized shorebirds like black oystercatchers (a keystone species on U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s ECOS – Environmental Conservation Online System), black and ruddy turnstones, wandering tattlers, and surfbirds. And of course, consideration should take in the invertebrates they feed on, such as mussels, barnacles, oysters and tubeworms.

Invertebrates

Invertebrates and other ecological receptors are a vital part of the ocean’s ecosystem. Although floating offshore wind can involve less disturbance to the seabed than tethered turbines, surveys should still be undertaken.

Species identification using APEM Inc’s digital aerial surveys

APEM Inc are an industry-leading environmental and geospatial consultancy. When it comes to marine wildlife, we go far and wide with aircraft-based surveys that are ideal for capturing vast amounts of information quickly and in fine detail.

Our innovative technology captures ultra-high resolution images to 1.5cm GSD – the quality that you need to guarantee accurate species level ID. Clients trust us to deliver the highest and quality data to support their offshore wind development COP.

Here are some of the most common species to be found around California, and when is the best time to detect them.

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Supporting responsible development

APEM Inc allow developers a glimpse into the future. Advanced or preventative mitigation allows them to know about the presence or absence of wildlife, so that plans can be fixed before construction begins. Developers can add more turbines in pre-construction, make them larger or smaller, or re-site them, with the knowledge that wildlife in the area has already been discovered, counted and accounted for. Surveys during construction then validate the data already captured, rather than providing new information.

Our survey data fits into our clients’ systems and is robust and powerful. We’re giving the information needed to calculate, to measure and map, to compare, to see potential and actual effects, to produce simulations for stakeholder engagement… with enough quality data, the uses are endless.

Contact us to find out how our ultra-high resolution digital aerial surveys and LiDAR technology can give you the highest-quality data for your development.

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