In a less than 24-hour span this weekend, two more dead whales have been discovered off the northern Atlantic coast of the U.S., and pro-cetacean activists are blaming President Joe Biden’s offshore wind initiative.
One whale washed up on Rockaway Beach in New York, while the other was filmed floating off of Chatham, Mass.
While the connection between whale fatalities and offshore wind power development hasn’t been rigorously studied, some environmentalists believe that loud sonar mapping, high boat traffic, and other disturbances to whales’ natural habitat are contributing to the surge in deaths.
In a Facebook post with the video, the New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association (NEFSA) said the string of whale deaths — 69 documented since last December — correlates with unprecedented development of offshore wind power installations in the Atlantic Ocean.
“When there is an unprecedented amount of deaths in a short period of time, the first thing we do is look for what has changed in the natural habitat/environment,” NEFSA wrote in their post. “Whales and other marine animals began washing ashore in alarmingly high numbers only since, and only where, offshore wind seismic blasting is occurring.”
David Shanker, the New Jersey Spokesman for the Save Right Whales, has been tracking whale deaths since late 2022.
Like the fishermen, he also believes offshore wind is to blame for the high number of whale fatalities.
“Since sonar blasting for offshore wind turbine developments began in December 2022, 68 dead whales have washed ashore. That’s in just 38 weeks, meaning nearly two whales have been confirmed dead every week,” Shanker said.
“At what point are we going to realize it’s not an ‘Unusual Mortality Event’ it’s much worse—it’s an inconvenient and unplanned specicide happening as a byproduct of rapid and irresponsible offshore wind turbine development,” he said. “If the government doesn’t put the brakes on these projects, how long will the 350 remaining critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales (NARW) be able to hold out? Will our children and grandchildren be learning about our current government’s mistakes in in their textbooks in five years or 10?”
President Biden has made industrial scale offshore wind a major priority of his administration’s energy policy.
Last week, Biden’s Department of Interior touted the accelerated approval of a fourth major wind project located off of Point Judith, Rhode Island.
“President Biden has set an ambitious goal of achieving 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030 – and I am more confident than ever that we will meet it. Together with industry, labor and partners from coast to coast, we are building an entirely new industry off the east and west and Gulf coasts,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“The Interior Department is committed to the Biden-Harris administration’s all-of-government approach to the clean energy future and delivering clean, reliable renewable energy to help respond to the climate crisis, lower energy costs, and create good-paying union jobs across the manufacturing, shipbuilding and construction sectors,” Haaland said.
Currently, there are only two utility-scale offshore wind installations operating — one off of Virginia and another off of Rhode Island. However, several more are meandering through the permit approval process.
In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation this year that supporters believe will kickstart offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine.
NEFSA, which represents several lobstering and commercial fishing interests, wants that project paused so an environmental review can be conducted to determine whether the wind turbines will disrupt fishing operations in the Gulf.
Last month, they released a scientific review of studies which, they said, were sufficient to cause concern that building and operating wind turbines could have “population-scale” effects on commercially important species, including lobster and haddock.