‘No evidence’ of offshore wind killing of whales in New Jersey-New York, groups say

Offshore wind dead whales

Anjuli Ramos-Busot, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Chapter, speaks at a news conference Tuesday in Atlantic City, NJ, where environmental groups supported the development of offshore wind energy. Wayne Parry/Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — Environmental and fisheries groups said Tuesday there was “no evidence” that site preparation work for offshore wind farms in New Jersey and New York was responsible for a spate of whale deaths in the two states.

Many of New Jersey’s leading environmental groups held a press conference on the Atlantic City Boardwalk — right in front of the local office of an offshore wind company — to support the industry and denounce what they call the false narrative that the industry’s testing activities harm or kill whales.

The issue has been contentious since Clean Ocean Action, one of New Jersey’s leading coastal environmental groups, held a press conference last week with several community groups opposing offshore winds, urging President Biden to investigate the deaths of seven whales in the two states, a little more than one Month.

She — and several local, state, and federal lawmakers — also called for a temporary halt to offshore wind preparation work while whale kills are investigated.

This call has drawn strong opposition from most of the state’s environmental groups, which have repeatedly stressed that climate change is the greatest threat to the oceans and the marine mammals that live in them, and that offshore wind power is essential to save ourselves from burning the planet remove. Warming of fossil fuels.

“There is no evidence to date that any recent strandings have been associated with offshore wind,” said Allison McLeod, policy director for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “The greatest threat to the marine environment is climate change. Offshore wind is one of the most important tools we have to protect our entire marine ecosystem.”

“This whole thing is being thrown out as a hypothesis that has no factual basis,” added Captain Paul Eidman, charter boat captain and director of Anglers for Offshore Wind. “I am concerned by the unfounded claims by some groups that the deaths are linked to surveys off our coast. We do not know that. There is no basis for this in reality.”

Scientists at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, where the youngest dead whale washed ashore last week, said Sunday preliminary results from an autopsy indicate the 32-foot-long female humpback whale was struck by a ship. It was also the suspected cause of death for another humpback whale that washed ashore in neighboring Atlantic City a week earlier.

Two of the seven animals – both sperm whales – are classified as endangered species in the United States.

Clean Ocean Action, which was not present at Tuesday’s press conference, later issued a statement defending its concerns and reiterating its call for the survey to be temporarily halted.

“What if these marine industry activities were related to a fossil fuel project – would that change anyone’s mind on a call to action?” the statement read. “When were so many industrial activities allowed in the region at the same time?”

The latest press conference came as Orsted, which will build two of the three offshore wind farms in New Jersey approved so far, detailed its current work. In a statement to the Associated Press, the Danish wind energy company said its survey vessels have not encountered any whales and that the sampling methods do not disturb whales or other marine mammals.

“Orsted places a strong emphasis on coexistence with our communities and marine life,” said Maddy Urbish, the company’s director of government affairs and strategy for New Jersey. “The offshore wind industry is subject to the strictest level of protection for marine mammals and protected species. Every aspect of our survey, construction and operations is subject to multi-agency scrutiny and protection requirements, including ship speeds, seasonal restrictions on construction activities and mandatory observation of protected species.”

She said a vessel called the Regulus conducted geotechnical site surveys Jan. 4-10 and has since left the area. Another ship, NorthStar Voyager, will be conducting similar work over the next few days.

The survey vessels carry out so-called CPT sampling, which is widely used in the industry to understand the composition of the bottom on the seabed. When conducting CPT sampling, a drill on the ship pushes a metal rod into the seabed to test the bottom’s friction and resistance, Urbish said.

“This form of testing is low in terms of noise exposure and has not been shown to elicit behavioral responses or transient or permanent threshold shifts in marine mammals,” she added, referring to the effects on the animals’ hearing.

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