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Project Details

Biogeographic Assessment of the Main Hawaiian Islands

Project Status: This project began in July 2013 and is projected to be completed in July 2016

We are using existing spatial data to characterize the distributions of corals, fish, mammals, and seabirds in and around the Main Hawaiian Islands to support the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s review of future requests for renewable energy leases and cable right-of-way grants in federal waters. Our work will help minimize the impacts of these future renewable energy projects on the surrounding marine ecosystems.

Why We Care
The state of Hawaii is aiming to generate 40 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. In the coming years, a mix of renewable energy technologies and infrastructure will need to be built to meet this state-wide goal. Some of this energy development may occur in the marine environment, including in federal waters on the outer continental shelf, extending 3 to 200 nautical miles from Hawaii’s shoreline.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is tasked with regulating renewable energy activities in this offshore area. As part of this responsibility, BOEM must conduct detailed environmental analyses of proposed renewable energy projects, including evaluating the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the human, coastal, and marine environments. Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date spatial information is critical for assessing these proposals and for minimizing their impacts on the surrounding ecosystems.

Given Hawaii’s renewable energy goals, BOEM anticipates that it will begin receiving requests for research and commercial renewable energy leases and right-of-way grants for transmission power cables in the coming years.

What We Are Doing
To help BOEM prepare for future lease and grant requests, we will compile and synthesize spatial information describing the physical environment, benthic communities, and select species and taxonomic groups of cetaceans, seals, seabirds, fish, and corals identified by BOEM staff as being of key interest. Species or groups that are more likely to interact with renewable energy infrastructure will be given special consideration. Where possible, we will overlay these data sets to identify geographic areas where these animals are consistently present, and where renewable energy development is more likely. Because no new field data will be collected during this effort, these analyses will depend on the availability, completeness, and limitations associated with existing data sets.

Products from our work will include:

  • A final report describing key ecological patterns, linkages, and locations around the main Hawaiian Islands, and
  • Select spatial data layers and associated metadata compiled to support these analyses.

Our products will also inform coastal and ocean management efforts by the state of Hawaii and other federal partners in the southern Hawaiian Archipelago.

This work is being funded by BOEM’s Pacific Outer Continental Shelf Region. Successful completion of this project will require cooperation and participation with several other federal, state, and academic sector partners, including the state of Hawaii’s Coastal Zone Management Program, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Pacific Island and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Pacific Services Center; as well as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Geological Survey; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; University of Hawaii; and Pacific Whale Foundation.

Region of Study: Hawaii

Primary Contacts: Bryan Costa, John Christensen

Research Theme: Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management (Biogeographic Assessment, Marine Spatial Planning)

Related NCCOS Center: CCMA

Project Products

 Data Collections and Related Websites
 Presentations and/or Posters

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