February 21, 2023
The alarming number of recent whale deaths has prompted 30 mayors of New Jersey coastal towns to call for immediate moratorium on all offshore wind activity pending a thorough investigation by federal and state authorities. In a letter to federal and state officials, the mayors express their concern about “the unprecedented number of whales that have washed ashore recently.” Copies of the letter have also been sent to President Joe Biden and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
Concerns that acoustic surveys related to offshore wind development may be a contributing factor in the 9 recent whale deaths that occurred since early December – more than has ever been recorded in the State of New Jersey in such a short amount of time – have brought strong opposition from local environmental groups and residents. On February 13th, the 9th dead whale in the New Jersey and New York area washed ashore in Manasquan, New Jersey. The US Coast Guard at Barnegat Light has also reported several more dead floating whales off the New Jersey coast, an indication that not all of the whale deaths have been accounted for.
The mayors’ letter emphasizes that “While we are not opposed to clean energy, we are concerned about the impacts these projects may already be having on our environment.” Offshore wind developers have obtained permits for the “incidental taking” of whales, which would typically be illegal under federal law. This could include potential injury to whales, such as damaging their hearing, or by causing behavioral disruptions in feeding and migration. In response to similar concerns, Benjamin Laws, Deputy Chief for the Permits and Conservation Division with the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, says that “there is an expectation that the work will impact marine life, including whales.” NOAA and other self- described environmental groups denounce the lack of evidence about the cause for these recent whale deaths and nevertheless encourage the wind industry and Governor Murphy to press on with his plan to install 11.5 GW of offshore wind projects in New Jersey.
The mayors, who represent over 359,168 full-time residents in New Jersey and welcome tens of millions of visitors annually to their beaches and communities, call for an immediate moratorium on all offshore wind activity pending a thorough investigation by federal and state agencies “that confidently determines” the offshore wind activities are not a contributing factor in the recent whale deaths.
The officials represent the communities of Atlantic Highlands, Avon by the Sea, Barnegat Light, Bay Head, Beach Haven, Berkley Township, Brick Township, Brielle, Brigantine, Deal, Harvey Cedars, Linwood, Little Egg Harbor Township, Long Beach Township, Mantoloking, Margate City, North Wildwood, Ocean City, Point Pleasant Borough, Point Pleasant Beach, Sea Girt, Seaside Park, Ship Bottom, Spring Lake, Stafford Township, Stone Harbor, Toms River, Ventnor City, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest.
2 Photos above provided