In a case of odd bedfellows, environmental groups and Republican politicians are calling for a pause in offshore wind farm development following a string of whales washing up dead on New Jersey and New York beaches.
Seven whales have turned up dead in little over a month. The latest victim, a 20- to 25-foot juvenile Humpback whale, turned up in Brigantine, New Jersey on Thursday afternoon, close to a Coast Guard station.
"The wave of dead whales is the ocean sounding the alarm, and we must heed the warning,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Jersey-based Clean Ocean Action, after the sixth whale washed up in Atlantic City on Jan. 7 with signs of head trauma. "[The wind farm development] is too much, too fast. It's outrageous and our ocean deserves better."
On Friday, Congressman Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) announced he would seek a federal investigation. "Ocean life is being put at risk as our governor and president force through their Green New Deal policies, without giving full consideration to their real-world impacts.
Drew sits on the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. New Jersey Republican state Senator Vince Polistina called for a pause in the offshore construction:
"The work related to offshore wind projects is the primary difference in our waters, and it’s hard to believe that the death of (seven) whales on our beaches is just a coincidence."
For others officials, though, it's damn the whales, full speed ahead. Democratic New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, on Friday said that, while "this is tragic, obviously," suspicions that tie the dead whales to the wind farm development were "unfounded and premature."
New Jersey has been on a quest to distinguish itself as the top offshore-wind state on the east coast. The Garden State has already approved three offshore wind farms and is soliciting more requests.
Clean Ocean Action says the installation of offshore windmills usually involves exploration of the sea floor using low-frequency sounds in the same frequency that whales use, with the risk that they could become disoriented or otherwise harmed.
Earlier this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it was unaware of any humpback whale having previously been confirmed as a victim of offshore wind projects. Among other human perils, whales can fall victim to ship strikes...but could sonar disorientation increase that risk?
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center said it can take months to figure out a beached whale's cause of death. In the meantime, expect Governor Murphy to continue racing to bolster New Jersey's green energy credentials.