On Saturday, New Jersey lifeguards discovered a dead humpback whale washed ashore, the latest in a string of unexplained deaths of various whale species on the East Coast.
Journalist Michael Shellenberger said the whale death was the 60th known death of the large mammals along the East Coast since Dec. 1, 2022.
Although no official conclusions have been reached about why the whales are dying at an increasing rate, the spate of deaths does coincide with offshore wind development off the coasts of Rhode Island and New Jersey, where several of the whales have been discovered.
Schellenberger thinks there is a connection between the powerful construction equipment used to build the wind turbine platforms and the dying whales.
On Twitter/X this weekend, he teased a new documentary project that will, he said, show strong evidence that offshore wind projects are harming whales.
David Shanker, the New Jersey Spokesperson for the “Save the Whales Coalition,” confirmed to the Maine Wire that the latest beached whale is the 60th whale fatality since Dec. 1, 2022.
“I am sickened to learn of yet another dead whale washing ashore in Long Branch this past weekend. For those keeping count, this is the 60th known whale death on the East Coast since December 1, 2022. And from the NJ/NY area including Montauk to Cape May, this is the 23rd dead whale in less than a year,” Shanker said in an email.
“Why does this keep happening? I believe, as many others do, that the irresponsible rush to build offshore wind turbines are why whales are dying at an alarming rate. Both BOEM and NOAA have approved the sonar blasting of the ocean floor to determine the best location for the hundreds of 1000’+ tall turbines that are planned to be built as close as 9 miles offshore,” Shanker said. “This sonar blasting harms whales’ ability to hear and causes them to be unable to navigate away from large ships.”
The potential threat presented to marine ecosystems by offshore wind development is significant for Maine.
This summer, lawmakers approved a bill that will lead to the construction of an offshore wind power port. Supporters of the bill hope the port will become the headquarters of an unprecedented effort to construct massive floating wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine.
Last week, a host of groups representing New England fishermen released a report highlighting the scientific research around the impact of offshore wind power on marine wildlife.
According to that report, there is evidence that offshore wind developments can have “population scale effects” on commercially significant fisheries, including haddock and lobster.
The group is asking the Maine officials to conduct a thorough analysis of potential environmental harm from the project before proceeding with a full-scale offshore wind power buildout.