ATLANTIC CITY – A coalition of environmental groups gathered in Atlantic City today to show their concern about recent marine mammal strandings along the east coast and to follow the data and science when making decisions about offshore wind, including recent reports that demonstrate no marine mammal strandings have been directly tied to offshore wind activities in New Jersey. In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been tracking an “Unusual Mortality Event” from as early as 2016.
Organizations in attendance included representatives from the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, New Jersey Sierra Club, New Jersey Organizing Project, Anglers for Offshore Wind, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, and GreenFaith Alliance.
All expressed their overwhelming concern for marine mammals, but emphasized the need to use the best available science and data regarding strandings, acknowledging that climate change poses an enormous threat to marine ecosystems. They also expressed their continued support for responsible offshore wind development in full compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which calls for protected species observers to be aboard all vessels conducting survey work.
“While I am deeply concerned with the recent whale strandings, I also know we must base our decision making on science and data, not emotions or assumptions. It is therefore irresponsible to assign blame to offshore wind energy development without supporting evidence,” said Allison McLeod, New Jersey LCV Policy Director and a former professional mammal observer. “We also know the dangers posed to marine mammals from the effects of climate change and ocean warming, vessel strikes, abandoned fishing gear, and other manmade threats that have contributed to a growing number of whale deaths and strandings. Transitioning New Jersey to a clean energy future will support the health of the overall marine ecosystem, including marine mammals.”
"The New Jersey Sierra Club is saddened to continue to see whale standings wash up on our shores. However, we recognize that this is not just a New Jersey problem and this is not an offshore wind problem. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been following these unusual whale casualties starting from 2016 up until the current time from the coast of Maine all the way down to the coast of Florida, and since then there have been 176 whale strandings of which New Jersey has only encountered 22. This problem started way before offshore wind development and exploration, and is more indicative of the severe climate change impacts that our marine wildlife experience and an increased number of trade ships. Shifting blame on offshore wind development is not only irresponsible but dangerous. Offshore wind is one of the solutions to curb the impacts of climate change on our oceans and marine wildlife" said NJ Sierra Club Director, Anjuli Ramos-Busot.
“For nearly a decade, we have sadly witnessed up to 27 whale carcasses washing up along the east coast every year, including along New Jersey’s shore. We know that the causes of most whale deaths are caused by entanglements with fishing gear and collisions with large barges and other vessels,” said Jennifer Coffey, ANJEC Executive Director. “Plastic pollution and climate change are having increasingly alarming impacts on marine life with UNESCO reporting that 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic pollution annually.”
“Wildlife deaths of any kind concern us and should be fully investigated to prevent further impacts, “said Eileen Murphy, PhD., VP Government Relations for NJ Audubon. “And it is important to understand the true cause of these deaths. Erroneous assumptions do not help us to prevent future deaths but lead us to dead ends. Undoubtedly, there will be more wildlife deaths with the continued use of fossil fuels than with the use of renewable energy sources like offshore wind. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been studying the uptick of whale deaths in New Jersey since 2016 and must continue to investigate. We also must continue to protect sensitive species by ensuring that the planned offshore wind projects are responsibly sited and developed.”
“Protected species observers are on board every survey vessel and have the ability to cease all operations and submit daily reports. Sonar Arrays that are used for seafloor mapping are harmless to marine mammals. There are NO seismic testing/air guns used for offshore wind bottom mapping (Geophysical Survey). It's all sonar, looking 200 ft down into the seabed,” saidPaul Eidman, Recreational Fish Charter Boat and Marine Fish Conservation Advocate. “This current hysteria is based on lies and an anti-green agenda. We need to wait for science to determine the cause of death for these whales and not blame offshore wind development without proof.”
“I am a lifelong resident of the New Jersey shore and a SuperStorm Sandy survivor. I know the devastating impact of the severe weather events caused by climate change and that’s why I support responsible offshore wind development,” said Jersey Shore resident and Senior Organizer with the New Jersey Organizing Project, Jody Stewart. “We need to find out what is really happening to the whales. We don’t want to jump to one conclusion and destroy a fantastic opportunity to save our homes from sea level rise. If we blame offshore wind for this, without any proof, it will not fix our problem. We will have dead whales and dying communities.”
“Whale strandings and deaths are sad and unfortunate. We must find ways to protect sea mammals from all hazards including the effects of global warming, vessel strikes and other incidents my partners and colleagues have pointed out. However, we must not jump to conclusions regarding the causes of death of these animals and allow the investigation process to take its course,” said Rev. Ronald Tuff, New Jersey Organizer, GreenFaith. “Offshore wind development has benefits for our clean energy future, our oceans, and our communities across New Jersey and ultimately the fight against climate change.”