Confronting Climate Change

Taking the ocean into account is critical for successfully addressing climate change, and addressing climate change is critical for the future of the ocean.

shutter stock_offshore wind

Responsible Offshore Wind

Responsibly developed offshore wind can help protect the ocean, marine species and coastal communities.

Offshore wind is an essential component of our clean energy future. Yet all forms of human interaction in the ocean have an impact on our ocean ecosystems. Ocean Conservancy supports the pursuit of offshore wind that is developed responsibly–avoiding, minimizing and mitigating negative impacts to our ecosystems, marine wildlife populations and other ocean users.

Why do we need offshore wind?

Since the Industrial Revolution, the ocean has absorbed more than 90 percent of the heat caused by the greenhouse gasses released from burning fossil fuels. This is changing our ocean’s very composition, putting immense pressure on our ecosystems, marine species and coastal communities.

Examples can be found throughout the ocean. Warming waters caused by climate change are shifting key small prey, such as zooplankton, poleward, putting stress on species at the top of the food chain, particularly baleen whales. Whales are now often sighted outside their usual regions, migrating much further to find ideal habitats, and shifting their foraging patterns into busy shipping lanes and fishing grounds, which puts them at greater risk of being struck by vessels, becoming entangled in fishing gear and being exposed to noise pollution.


The risk climate change poses to marine life is far greater than the risk of offshore wind. We need to advance offshore wind responsibly, making sure that proven measures to protect the ocean are in place. We also need to continue developing new and better ways to mitigate risks and make sure all marine wildlife is safe from other ocean uses.

Anna-Marie Laura
Senior Director, Climate Policy

Additionally, coastal communities are seeing extreme coastal flooding and erosion due to sea level rise, while other areas of the ocean are becoming more acidic, causing shellfish shells to dissolve.

To slow this rate of change and protect our ocean, marine species and coastal communities, there’s no clearer path forward than to stop the use of harmful fossil fuels and move towards clean renewable energy sources.

Wind farm with ocean view
© Adobe Stock

Fortunately, America’s coastlines offer abundant wind for clean energy generation. Offshore wind is an effective and reliable energy source, as winds blow much stronger and more consistently over the ocean than over land. Additionally offshore wind is an ideal option to keep energy sources local for the 40 percent of the U.S. population that lives near the coast. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, domestic offshore wind could generate more than 23,000 terawatt-hours of power, far more than the U.S. annual consumption of 4,050 terawatt-hours.

Ocean Conservancy strongly supports responsible offshore wind that is developed using smart long-term planning and proven measures that avoid, minimize or mitigate risk to wildlife, ecosystems and communities.

Much of the planned offshore wind in U.S. waters falls in areas where schooling fish, marine mammals and turtles forage and migrate. This means that offshore wind development and operation could impact our ecosystems, marine life and other ocean users whether from vessel traffic, surveying, construction or structures in the ocean. As America’s offshore wind industry grows, we must incorporate smart planning from the outset, monitor development closely, and adaptively manage to account for new scientific findings and observed effects to our ocean resources.

With the benefits of offshore wind being so crucial in our efforts to combat climate change and protect the ocean, offshore wind should move forward as responsibly as possible, using proven measures to reduce impacts on our ecosystems and marine species.

Offshore wind ocean view
© Rob Arnold/

Ocean Conservancy is actively engaged in the offshore wind development and regulation process to ensure we maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem, protect our marine species and avoid conflict with other ocean uses as offshore wind is developed. Through research, advocacy and collaboration with policy makers, government agencies, industry and other stakeholders, we are working to ensure our ocean has a voice in the discussion on where and how offshore wind is implemented.

Ocean Conservancy defines responsible offshore wind as including, but not limited to:

  • Robust consultation among government agencies, scientists, local communities, federally and state recognized Tribes at the outset of planning and throughout operation.
  • Proactive engagement with other ocean users, such as fishermen, to avoid or mitigate negative impacts to critical industry.
  • Strict adherence to all existing important environmental protections including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.
  • No or limited construction or other activities that produce significant underwater noise during marine mammal feeding, migration, and calving periods.
  • Reduced speeds by all vessel traffic associated with offshore wind to minimize vessel noise and avoid marine mammal collison.
  • The use of, and investment in, technologies and strategies to detect marine mammals and turtles near offshore wind construction and operation activities, that will help avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to wildlife.

Take action to protect our ocean from its single biggest threat: climate change.

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