Seven dead whales have washed up in the New York/New Jersey region during the last 39 days, and environmental activists called on government officials to stop offshore development until they get some answers.
A 20-foot-long dead whale found on Friday, January 13, 2023, at a Brigantine beach by the north end of the city, about a mile from the seawall, was the seventh dead marine mammal washed up since Dec. 5, 2022, when an infant sperm whale, 12 feet long, was found dead on the beach in Keansburg, New Jersey.
On Dec. 23 another young humpback whale washed up on Chelsea Avenue in Atlantic City and a third one —a 30-foot humpback whale —washed ashore in the same municipality on Jan 7, near the Mississippi Avenue beach in front of Boardwalk Hall.
Another 30-foot-long humpback whale was found dead on Dec. 11, 2022, on Whale Beach in the Strahmere section of Upper Township.
A 31-foot-long humpback was found dead on Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett, New York on Dec. 6; and a 30-foot sperm whale was found on New York’s Rockaway Beach on Dec. 12.
None of the whales exhibited obvious causes of death such as ship strikes, entanglements, or predator attacks but they all died in areas where there is ongoing geological seafloor mapping and other construction prep being done by offshore wind energy developers.
Organizations from the two states are requesting President Joe Biden to order a probe into the whales’ deaths in areas that are being prepared for large-scale offshore wind farms. The environmentalists also want to stop work until the mystery is solved.
Although current research suggests that offshore wind farms have a predominantly negative impact on the marine environment, due to the harmful impacts of construction and ongoing noise pollution, officials are saying that numerous dead whales washed up on New Jersey beaches are a coincidence unrelated to ongoing survey activities for energy developers.
Despite the clean energy benefits that large offshore wind farms (OWFs) developments have, their construction and long-term operation are impacting marine life living beneath the rotating turbine blades slowly churning away on the horizon.
One of the earliest impacts that OWFs have on their environment is during the construction phase, due to physical damage caused to the seafloor.
Not only is seafloor habitat destroyed to install the piles that anchor the turbines, but sediment is also suspended in the water column due to this disturbance.
It is expected that this suspension of sediments has a negative impact on marine life, as it increases the turbidity in the water, mobilizing contaminants buried in the sand, and also smothering filter-feeding animals like corals, sponges and anemones.
The increased turbidity and decrease in visibility may also impact algae that depend on sunlight filtering through the water for photosynthesis.
Marine noise pollution can affect the behavior of marine animals, especially those that depend on vocalizations for communication, or echolocation for navigation.
Calling the number of recent whale deaths unprecedented, Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action said her group was calling on Biden to take immediate action to address the alarming trend in concert with Protect Our Coast NJ, Save Long Beach Island, Defend Brigantine Beach, and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.
“Before building 3,400 turbines and installing 10,000 miles of cable on the ocean floor, developers should pay the government to conduct a comprehensive, reasonable and responsible pilot project to assess the harm to marine life,” said Lisa McCormick, another New Jersey environmental advocate. “Our state should support responsible offshore wind energy, but unreasonable and reckless privatization will endanger marine life including whales, dolphins, turtles, and hundreds of other species that call the ocean home.”