In 2016, WCS in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) deployed a single moored buoy in what is now Empire Wind Lease Area (previously the Equinor Wind Lease 0512 area) in the New York Bight (NYB) (referred to as the Southeast [SE] buoy). The SE Buoy (also originally named Melville) has been in continuous operation from 2016 – 2021.

Starting in 2020, WCS and WHOI in collaboration with Equinor expanded our passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) program by deploying a second buoy in the Empire Wind Lease Area (referred to as the Northwest [NW] buoy).

The above map shows the wider New York Bight (upper left panel) and our study area (black box). The focused map (lower right panel) shows the wind lease area with WCS – WHOI buoy sites, shipping lanes, and the North Atlantic right whale Seasonal Management Area (NARW SMA) off the Port of New York and New Jersey. The Equinor Wind Lease 0512 area is outlined in green. Shipping lanes are shown in hashed light grey and the NOAA NARW SMA is outlined in red hatched lines (in effect from 1 November to 30 April each year). Buoys were moored at a single location from June 2016 to December 2019 (SE buoy site; red circle). In January 2020, two buoys were deployed, one was moored at the SE buoy site, the other was moored inshore of the SE buoy (NW buoy site; yellow circle).


These buoys have the capacity to detect fin, humpback, sei and North Atlantic right (NARW) whales in near real-time throughout the wind lease area. The near real-time detections are transmitted from the buoys to our website. Acoustic recordings are also archived by the buoys and analyzed after the buoys are retrieved by the WCS’s Ocean Giants team for more detailed investigations into the species' vocal behavior and ambient ocean noise conditions. The broad objectives of the study are to investigate the temporal (2016 – 2022) and spatial (SE vs. NW buoys in 2020 – 2022) presence of whales in the lease area and to provide near-real time acoustic detections of whales for educational and potential mitigation purposes.

These spectrograms show species-specific vocalizations for the four baleen whales studied in this project; fin whale song (A) and calls (B), humpback whale song (C) and calls (D), North Atlantic right whale (NARW) upcalls (E), and sei whale doublet calls (F). Spectrograms show the time on the bottom (x-axis) and frequency on the left (y-axis) and the gray scale indicates relative amplitude (or loudness of the sound). Together these data generate vital information about the presence and vocal behavior of whales in the NYB improving our baseline understanding of these species and the potential impacts of offshore wind farms on whales.


The landmark efforts by WCS, WHOI, and Equinor set important precedents for effective monitoring and mitigation using near real-time passive acoustics. Implications of this project, beyond establishing baseline information, are promoting the use of this technology to monitor whales and to mitigate potential impacts of offshore wind farm development and operations, thereby illustrating the application of near-real time PAM for industry, science, and conservation as well as supporting WCS's work to protect and conserve nature's strongholds.  

Navigate to Near Real-Time Data - Detections and Graphics to see the exciting near real-time results from this PAM program.