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Right-whale observers need whistleblower protection during wind farm construction, environmental group says

Right whales
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

As the installation of turbines for America’s first large offshore wind farm grows nearer, the environmental group Oceana is warning that construction rules designed to protect endangered wildlife could be difficult to enforce.

Scientific observers will be on board the construction vessels to watch for protected species — especially North Atlantic right whales, which are critically endangered.

But similar observers on fishing vessels have sometimes experienced harassment and intimidation, according to Gib Brogan, a campaign director for Oceana. He said the same could happen in offshore wind, where multi-billion-dollar projects are at stake.

“That's a tremendous burden [on the observers],” he said. “They're generally junior scientists who are out there.”

In fisheries, many of the observers are fresh out of an undergraduate degree program, he said.

Offshore cable installation for Vineyard Wind is scheduled to start this year, and turbine installation next year. Mayflower Wind is still in the permitting process.

Brogan said observers should have whistleblower protection, and the reports they make should be public.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.