The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted several articles during its annual Whale Week, highlighting the dangers whales face. However, it did not mention any potential impact offshore wind projects could have on whale mortality.
NOAA has highlighted some of the most significant threats to whales in its Whale Week 2023 celebrations, an annual event that celebrates the marine mammal, on its website. However, it has not mentioned offshore wind projects which could be linked to the recent increase in whale deaths. Environmental groups and NOAA’s top scientist both expressed concern about the project’s potential impact on whale population.
Janet Coit wrote about whales on the NOAA website. “Whales have a unique beauty and are among the largest animals on Earth. Some species are also some of the most endangered in the world.” She added that “at NOAA Fisheries our team of dedicated managers and scientists is responsible for the sustainability and health of more than thirty whale species in U.S. waters and territorial waters.”
Coit blamed the recent increase of whale deaths on climate change, ship collisions and ocean noise. Environmental groups have said that offshore wind surveys sites could be at fault and called for a construction moratorium until an investigation has been conducted.
Over 20 whales werehed up near survey sites on the east coast for offshore wind projects planned since December 2022. This is part of a rise in “unusual death events” or whale strandings, as NOAA refers to them.
The nonpartisan ocean and marine life advocacy organization Save Long Beach Island, however, found that noise from survey ships could cause whales to lose their hearing. This, in turn, can lead to ship collisions.
Bob Stern, former director of Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Compliance and president of Save LBI, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “the right whales migrate from New England to New Jersey every year as part of their migration cycle.”
Lauren Gaches told DCNF that there was no proof at this time that the noise generated by wind development surveys, which are related to site characterization, could cause whale deaths. There were also no links between recent whale deaths and current surveys.
Bloomberg reports that NOAA scientist Sean Hayes told his agency that in 2022, “Additional sound, vessel traffic, and habitat modification due to offshore wind developments will likely cause additional stress which could result in further population consequences for a species already experiencing rapid decline.”