With Gov. Phil Murphy questioning whether offshore wind development is the reason why seven dead whales have washed up on the beaches of New Jersey, State Sen. Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) is seeking an immediate suspension of all offshore wind development activities.
“We should suspend all work related to offshore wind development until we can determine the cause of death of these whales, some of which are endangered,” said Polistina. “The work related to offshore wind projects is the primary difference in our waters, and it’s hard to believe that the death of six whales on our beaches is just a coincidence.
Bob Stern, the president of Save Long Beach Island, an advocacy group with 4,500 members, said that multiple wind energy companies are using high-intensity noise devices for vessel surveys off the New Jersey and New York coasts.
“The noise impact from these devices was being seriously underestimated, and that it could drive whales towards shore seeking relief,” Stern said on behalf of his organization. “The beached whales bear no sign of vessel strike or fishing gear entanglement, leaving natural causes or noise as the potential causes, and raising the likelihood that our concerns were well-founded.”
Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman said that “stopping offshore wind development in New Jersey would significantly hurt our state’s economy and our ability to combat climate change.”
“The has been a rise in humpback whale deaths since 2016, far preceding this Governor or any work by Orsted,” he said. “While we need to investigate these recent deaths and hold offshore wind developers accountable for any negligence, changes in water temperatures due to climate change and shifting food sources have contributed to this rise in deaths.
According to Suleiman, proetcting whales and moving to offshore wind energy “is not an either/or approach.”
“We can grow our economy and combat climate change through offshore wind while still protecting wildlife and our environment,” Suleiman stated. “New Jersey cannot lose its place as a national leader in renewable energy. As we continue to face the negative effects of climate change and the real possibility of a recession in 2023, halting offshore wind development would be a disaster.”
Later on Friday, two State Assembly members from Monmouth County, Vicky Flynn (R-Holmdel) and Gerald Scharfenberger (R-Middletown), joined Polistina in his call to temporarily halt the project.
“Our concerns have grown exponentially with each report citing another whale washing ashore. The sensitivity of sea life to electromagnetic fields as well as disturbances in migration routes is astounding. Until we know for a certainty that these new wind turbines are not harming marine animals – we must halt any and all projects to ensure against further harm,” Flynn and Scharfenberger said. “A delay in doing so could have drastic consequences to wildlife both on and off the shore as well as to our historic commercial and recreational fishing industries which rely heavily on a healthy oceanic ecosystem.”
This story was updated at 2:13 PM with comment from Suleiman and at 4:59 PM with comment from Flynn and Scharfenberger.