What really killed the whales? NJ environmental groups are sparring
Environmental groups in New Jersey are squaring off, fighting a war of words over what is causing so many whale deaths in recent weeks.
Following the discovery of a 30-foot humpback whale that washed ashore in Atlantic City earlier this month, several groups including Clean Ocean Action wrote to President Biden demanding a pause on all wind-energy activity off the Jersey coast and an investigation into why a total of seven whales have perished in less than five weeks.
🐋 Windmills to blame for whale deaths? Maybe not
According to Jennifer Coffey, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of Environmental Commission, suggestions that the Garden State’s plan to construct a huge wind farm out in the ocean have anything to do with the whale tragedies are unfortunate and misguided.
She said the wind companies now doing scientific surveying off the coast have marine mammal observers on board and no whale strikes have been reported. The last two whales that washed ashore have had contusions on their heads, undoubtedly caused by collisions with shipping vessels.
“Focusing in on wind energy when there was no wind activity, no scientific studies happening in December when these whales started washing up is completely inconsistent with the science and quite frankly irresponsible,” she said.
“What we know is killing these whales is vessel strikes, we know they are drowning from entanglements with large commercial fishing gear.”
Coffey said we also know “too many marine mammals are washing up with guts full of plastic. Plastic is a huge issue for marine mammals and marine birds.”
Whale deaths are not new along East Coast
Coffey said we need to follow the science and we need to follow the data "and there’s simply no connection at this point in time between the scientific studies that are being done offshore and these whales that are washing up."
“Anybody who is manipulating the data to misconstrue the public in a way that fits their preordained agenda is completely irresponsible.”
She pointed out that whale deaths up and down the East Coast have been rising for nearly a decade, so much so that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has labeled this an “unusual mortality event.”
Climate change eyed as a factor in whale deaths
New Jersey Sierra Club director Anjuli Ramos said everyone is concerned about the recent whale deaths but this is not just a Jersey problem because over the past seveb years there have been 176 reported whale strandings from Maine down to Florida.
Ramos said climate change is believed to be responsible because it impacts water temperature and currents, fish populations and the behavior of the whales themselves.
“Offshore wind does not deserve the blame," Ramos said. "It is going to help us get to curb the impacts of climate change.”
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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