“Save Our Whales” Rally On “World Whale Day” In Point Plesant Over Concerns Of Recent Whale Deaths

February 19, 2023

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ (OCEAN)–Smith (R-Manchester) called for immediate answers from the Biden Administration and Governor Murphy to the growing questions raised by him, county and local officials, environmental leaders, and concerned Jersey Shore residents over the massive offshore wind projects along the New Jersey-New York coastline in light of the recent unprecedented surge in whale deaths.

Rep. Smith speaks at the Save the Whales rally in Point Pleasant Beach on Sunday. Pictured with Smith are (left to right) Trisha DeVoe, a naturalist and rally co-organizer; Leslie Mangold, rally organizer; Seaside Park Mayor John Peterson Jr; and Cindy Zypf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action.

“Questions and concerns raised by me and many others have gone unanswered concerning the unexplained deaths of at least 10 whales,” said Smith, who has received no response to date from the Biden Administration regarding his request to immediately pause all offshore wind projects until ecological safety can be assured.

“We demand to be heard and our deep concerns addressed—not trivialized, mocked or dismissed,” Smith said. “We want the truth. The people of New Jersey deserve better.”

The rally comes less than a week after a dead whale washed ashore in Manasquan and just two days after another dead whale washed ashore in New York, marking the ninth and tenth whale deaths in the area since early December.

“There is great concern for the potential serious—even catastrophic—damage to marine ecosystems leading to the destruction of NJ’s fishing and tourism businesses if hundreds, and even thousands, of wind turbines are installed off the New Jersey coast,” said Smith.

“Collectively, New Jersey and New York have set the nation’s largest
regional offshore wind target by aiming to install over 16 GW of offshore wind energy capacity by 2035,” Smith said.

“No elected officeholder including President Biden or Governor Murphy—or any bureaucrat—should advance such a sweeping, potentially dangerous policy without meaningful input from the people or by bypassing local officials as happened on Friday to benefit Orsted,” said Smith.

“On Friday, I introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to require the US Government Accountability Office—GAO—to investigate the ‘sufficiency of the environmental review processes for offshore wind projects…of the Marine Fisheries Service, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and any other relevant federal agency,’” said Smith.

Smith noted the investigation would determine the impact of offshore wind activity on whales and other marine wildlife, commercial and recreational fishing, vessel traffic, tourism, and the sustainability of shoreline beaches and inlets.

The study mandated by Smith’s bill would also examine whether federal agencies adequately consulted major stakeholders including county and local officials, commercial and recreational fishermen, local environmental groups, and Jersey Shore residents, as well as determine the estimated cost of these projects and who pays for them.

“Without serious, aggressive and independent analysis on the impact of these projects, they must be paused,” said Smith.

Amid growing concerns over recent whale deaths, ongoing questions about environmental impacts and a call from 12 Jersey Shore mayors for a moratorium on offshore wind activity, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) on Monday urged two Biden Administration Secretaries in separate letters to immediately suspend all offshore wind projects until “ecological safety can be assured.”

            Smith, writing on behalf of the 12 mayors, including four from his own congressional district, said, “I share their concerns regarding the several offshore wind projects under development off the coast of New Jersey, and their requisite impact on recent whale deaths, as well as the potential impacts on the broader environment and the fishing industry.”

            “Over the course of the past several months, there have been repeated instances of dead whales washing up on New Jersey’s shoreline, and the proximity of nearby offshore wind development has raised concerns that ongoing activity on these projects may be contributing to whale fatalities,” Smith said in his January 30th letters to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

            “The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the Jersey Shore’s environmental viability, and any projects that may affect not only whales, but the broader marine ecosystem and the economy it sustains, must be comprehensively reviewed before allowed to proceed,” said Smith.

            “The New Jersey mayors, local environmental leaders, and members of the fishing community all share a deep concern that four major offshore wind projects have been approved concurrently within the span of two years. That these projects are being built at such a large scale and in such a short amount of time casts doubt over whether there was sufficient time to properly evaluate these projects’ impact on marine ecosystems, fisheries, shipping channels, tourism, and other important factors that may be affected,” Smith said in the letters.

            “It was recently reported that, last year, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network raised a concern that construction related to offshore wind was harmful to Atlantic Sturgeon. While at first their review overlooked this concern, NOAA subsequently found new information corroborating this claim. Still, construction continued in the interim, causing undue environmental harm,” Smith wrote.

            “Similarly, the lack of conclusive evidence disproving the link between offshore wind development and whale deaths is sufficient enough to require a pause until assurances can be made to the public that the environmental and maritime safety of these projects has been properly reviewed,” Smith continued.

            “Accordingly, I request that all work be suspended until such time that ecological safety can be assured,” wrote Smith.

Photos by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response

A rally was held today on the Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk in front of Jenkinson’s about the recent whale deaths.

Photos below provided: