The outer continental shelf of North Carolina supports some of the best conditions for potential offshore wind energy in the southeast United States. However, there are potential impacts to sensitive marine ecosystems from construction of offshore energy facilities. NOAA and partners are studying the hardbottom rocky reefs that serve as essential habitats for valuable fish species to better understand these unique offshore ecosystems.
The researchers use hydrographic sonar survey methods to map depth and texture of the seafloor geological features. Man-made objects on the seafloor, such as shipwrecks and artificial reefs, are also studied. Together, these objects and seafloor formations create habitats for fishes to find food or hide from predators. These areas are excellent habitats for diving, as well as for commercial and recreational fishing. Using imagery, divers can locate and document the types and abundance of fishes and sharks. The findings from these studies are used to review the size and boundaries of potential wind energy areas to minimize impacts to sensitive seafloor habitats.
Partners in this project include NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, and Geodynamics Group LLC.