ICES Journal of Marine Science (2023)

DOI: 10.1093/icesjms/fsad150


Offshore wind energy is set to develop rapidly in waters off the east coast of the United States. There is considerable overlap between areas proposed for offshore wind development and harbour porpoise habitats in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) and Southern New England waters. Baseline data on the occurrence and foraging activity of porpoises was collected using 10 echolocation-click detectors (F-PODs) from 2020 to 2022. Porpoises were present year-round in the GOM with peak detections in the summer and fall. In line with previous reported distribution patterns, porpoise occurrence in Southern New England was high in fall, winter and spring, but porpoises were largely absent in the summer. One site in the GOM, Mount Desert Rock (MDR), was an anomaly as porpoise detections here were highest in the winter. On average, foraging was identified in 29% of all porpoise detections, with the most foraging occurring at MDR (53%). Results from generalized additive models suggest that time of year, hour of day, lunar illumination, and temperature are significant contributors to porpoise presence and/or foraging effort. European studies show that harbour porpoises exhibit behavioural changes, disruption of foraging and displacement due to wind energy development. Therefore, early identification of areas of importance, mitigating impacts, and monitoring changes is essential for the protection of this species in US waters.