Environmentalists Seek to Save the Whales from Offshore Wind Energy | Eastern North Carolina Now

From December through mid-August, 60 large whales have washed ashore East Coast beaches, coinciding with the issuance of several federal permits for whale “harassment” as a consequence of offshore wind energy development activities

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the John Locke Foundation. The author of this post is Jon Sanders.

  • From December through mid-August, 60 large whales have washed ashore East Coast beaches, coinciding with the issuance of several federal permits for whale "harassment" as a consequence of offshore wind energy development activities
  • A shocking acoustical investigation found much greater sonar noise levels from offshore wind development than the government reported, meaning whales and other marine creatures are in even much greater danger
  • The Biden administration, however, is adamant that the cause of the sudden spike in whale deaths is climate change

    Something is killing whales off the East Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries division has identified several Unusual Mortality Events starting around 2016-17 for several species of whale, including minke whales, humpback whales, and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

    Between December 2022 and May 2023, for example, "at least 36" large whales washed ashore East Coast beaches. By mid-August, the known death toll had reached 60.

    Other dead marine creatures might be easy to miss, but whales, being so massive, are not. Nevertheless, the many more that die in the ocean's deep go unobserved. According to NOAA Fisheries, for example, "only one third of North Atlantic right whale mortalities are actually detected."

    What's killing the whales? In September, the Save Right Whales Coalition (SRWC) issued a press release calling on NOAA to halt all sonar activities tied to offshore wind energy development after a shocking acoustical study found that "the noise produced by offshore wind sonar activities is much louder than NOAA Fisheries' National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has reported." The danger of such excess noise is that "the setback distances adopted by NMFS to protect ocean life from the noise are too short and place whales and other marine mammals at a high risk of encountering harmful levels."

    The coalition of "long-time environmental activists dedicated to protecting the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale from the industrialization of its ocean habitat" issued a letter to NOAA Director Richard Spinrad alerting him to the findings. As SRWC explained (emphasis added):

    According to the letter, "inadequate mitigations during a sonar survey could result in marine mammals experiencing sound levels that may injure or kill." Since the only mitigation for sonar noise is distance, the shortened distances enforced by NMFS have "rendered any expected mitigations useless."

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    SRWC's finding is supported by a sound study conducted by Rand Acoustics, LLC, a leading acoustics firm in Maine. Earlier this year, Rand captured actual high decibel noise levels at a wind survey site approximately 43 nautical miles east of Barnegat Light, NJ. Rand found that the frequency and sound power levels he recorded did not match the equipment NMFS and the project sponsor said would be used. Rand's data show the noise emitted from the sonar was much louder. This finding prompted a comprehensive review of the incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) issued by NMFS which revealed a regular pattern of NMFS applying mitigations based on quieter sonar devices than those actually in use. ...

    This finding suggests that there has been a complete breakdown in the system designed to protect marine wildlife and protect the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. SRWC has requested emergency action by NMFS and BOEM to address this matter beginning with the immediate revocation of IHAs now active.


    Is Noise Driving Whales into Harm's Way? No, It's Climate Change, Says the Biden Administration

    According to the Biden administration and their sympathetic media, however, these are the likely causes of whale deaths:

  1. Human interactions - vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements
  2. Not offshore wind energy development
  3. Climate change

    CNN, for example, wrote earlier this year about how scientists and government officials were still "trying to figure out" why there has been such an unusually large number of whale deaths around the areas being sounded and prepared for offshore wind energy development. A NOAA Fisheries spokesperson proposed "[c]limate change and warming oceans" as the possible culprit. Nevertheless, CNN had enough certainty about one thing to make it headline news: "What's killing whales off the Northeast coast? It's not wind farm projects, experts say."

    The New York Times suggested that Americans' online shopping habit plays a role - after climate change, of course. Something is causing whales to get into shipping lanes and be struck by vessels, and the pat answer is climate change with the novel twist being that increased cargo shipments are being made on "far bigger ships."

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    Such speculation is perhaps to be expected with so much unknown as to why there has been such a sudden increase in whale deaths, but it can be jarring to see it followed by adamant conclusion that wind energy development activities happening when and where the whales are washing ashore are not to blame. The Times:

    This winter's quick succession of stranded whales also coincides with work being done in advance of the installation of roughly a dozen large offshore wind farms from Massachusetts to Virginia. Opponents of offshore wind have said that the sonar used by energy companies to map the ocean floor or the noise from seabed rock sampling might be contributing to the whale deaths, though NOAA and the Marine Mammal Commission say there is no evidence that this is true.

    NOAA Fisheries has a special page devoted to the issue of offshore wind development and whales. The page asks, for example, "Is U.S. offshore wind development linked to any whale deaths?" The answer required some hedging: "At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales. There are no known links between recent large whale mortalities and ongoing offshore wind surveys."

    Here's what I mean by "hedging." The phrase "At this point" is not definitive. The word "evidence" requires a level of proof that is very difficult to achieve - scientists would have to show conclusively that, for example, the whale was disoriented by sonar activity and blundered into shipping lanes where it was fatally struck, and the page even explains that "acoustic trauma" is extremely hard to find after any decomposition whereby "microscopic changes in the ears are generally no longer detectable." Use of "could potentially" is unnecessarily redundant to cast further doubt. Finally, "no known links" is also not definitive.

    Contrast that carefulness with NOAA Fisheries answering the question "Is climate change a factor in the number of whales we're seeing close to shore?" with absolute certainty: "Yes. Our climate is changing, and one of those key changes is the warming of our oceans. ..."

    Never Mind the Official Line. Could Offshore Wind Energy Development Be Killing Whales?

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    While the main causes of whale deaths are boat strikes and fishing gear entanglements, the question is why have those deadly encounters suddenly spiked? The administration's assertion is climate change, which is said to have caused the water to warm, which is said to cause the whales to follow prey closer to land, which is said to cause the fatal human interactions.

    But what if sonar mapping and loud pile-driving are driving whales away from offshore wind energy sites - either trying to escape the noise or suffering from acoustic trauma and disorientation - and into harm's way?

    There is no direct evidence, as hedged by NOAA Fisheries, but the finding of much louder noise levels is a major piece of circumstantial evidence. After all, the possibility for offshore wind energy development activities for sudden, dramatic disruption of whale habitats has for years been acknowledged as a real danger in research and even by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. BOEM has also acknowledged that the disruption on the whales could lead to shifts in migration, foraging, and calving, and therefore increase the dangers of boat strikes and fishing entanglements, as well as perinatal complications.

    Environmentalist, author, and Time "Hero of the Environment" Michael Shellenberger calls it "The Biggest Environmental Scandal in the World." He discussed the whale deaths with Cindy Zipf, executive director of the Long Branch-based nonprofit Clean Ocean Action (COA), who looked into what had changed recently:

    The only thing she and other researchers found was offshore wind exploration. "We looked at shipping, and shipping didn't seem to be any different," said Zipf. "The same fishermen were fishing. And the only thing we noticed was the number of IHAs that had been issued."

    IHAs are "incidental harassment authorizations," or permits to harass whales. In the period since June 2022, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has, bizarrely and cruelly, given the wind industry 12 separate, 1-year IHAs, that collectively permit the harassment of 190 critically endangered right whales. Another ten applications for additional IHAs are currently pending.


    For reference, the latest population update showed only about 340 right whales remaining.

    If that's not bad enough, the IHAs are based on the unverified sonar sound levels stated by offshore wind developers. If those are wrong, then so are the actual harassments occurring - meaning many more whales' lives are threatened than even permitted by the federal government.

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    As SRWC cofounder Lisa Linowes noted, "Had NMFS applied the correct sonar sound levels when issuing the IHAs, the number of takes" - i.e., the number of whales harmed through the activities covered by the IHAs - "would have been materially greater."

    Epilogue: "Thrown to the Wind"

    Shellenberger and Leighton Woodhouse are executive producers on a newly released film that "documents surprisingly loud, high-decibel sonar emitted by wind industry vessels when measured with state-of-the-art hydrophones" and shows that "the wind industry's increased boat traffic is correlated directly with specific whale deaths."

poll#178
Considering the current overwhelming obstacles inflicting stress upon America's working class: rampant inflation; energy insecurity; supply chain turmoil; banking failures; foreign policy disasters; government corruption; (DEI) Diversity Equity Inclusion narrative, with WOKE extremes practiced; Climate Change ideology; intractable crime wave in Leftist cities; wide open border by executive design; a permanently discredited Legacy Media; failed or failing education industry, just to name a few of the many: Who should Americans blame?
  Donald J. Trump
  Joseph R. Biden
  Leftist controlled Congress for the last 4 years.
  Bloated, incompetent bureaucracy weaponized and poorly managed
  The electorate, US, for putting these fools in elected office that utterly fail
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Comments

Big Bob said:
( December 27th, 2023 @ 9:46 am )
 
I challenge everyone, for one week, place all the single use plastic items you would throw away in a paper bagged save. At the end of the week, check out how much was collected. I think you will be shocked. Multiply that by 300 million. Then consider, that plastic will still be fouling the planet 100 after you're dead.
.
( December 27th, 2023 @ 7:49 am )
 
The issue is not who made the plastic, but who is throwing it into the ocean, and Little Bobbie, you are simply trying to deflect on that, based on your usual racial approach to everything. Even as to making the plastic, a whole lot of it comes from China and India, and there are also many smaller countries around the world making things of plastic and making plastic itself
The toxic microplastices shed into the environment by wind turbine blades is a new wrinkle and a good reason to ban wind turbines. But then there are lots of reasons to ban them like slaughtering birds and bats..

STan, carbon is a NON-issue if you listen to the scientists who are not profiteering off of the climate cult. Earth's climate history proves teh warmists WRONG.
( December 26th, 2023 @ 9:40 pm )
 
Carbon is a correctable issue, which would not take hundreds of trillions of dollars, all designed to enslave the world. CT: you are right, the 'Green Religion is a pagan cult,' led by stupid people, doing far more harm that any good in regards to real conservation.
Big Bob said:
( December 26th, 2023 @ 8:14 pm )
 
99% of all plastic ever made, is still on the earth. First world white people blaming third world brown people, is typical of privilege, but not based in reality.
( December 26th, 2023 @ 5:59 pm )
 
I wish that were true, Stan, but the biggest pagan cult in the Green Religion is the carbon / climate cult, and they are often at odds with real environmentalists who care about such things as stopping deforestation and protecting wildlife habitat. There is little the US can do about plastics in the ocean, because most of it does not come from here. By far the largest source is plastic trash thrown into four rivers in the Third World, and that accounts for 90% of it. The next largest source is plastics dumped from merchant ships, most notoriously from Chinese merchant ships. Where the US and Europe have in recent years added to the plastic in the ocean is largely from the tons of toxic microplastics shed by wind turbine blades. stopthesethings.com (article republished from Buffalo News)
( December 26th, 2023 @ 4:52 pm )
 
Once the United States of America does all within its power to keep plastic out of the oceans, mostly by recycling, this whole pathetic Green Religion will fold.
( December 26th, 2023 @ 4:33 pm )
 
Almost all of the plastic pollution in the oceans comes from four rivers in the Third World, however, offshore wind is now a major source of microplastics, which is shed from the turbine blades. This article reprinted from the Buffalo, NY News explains the dangers from wind turbines: stopthesethings.com
Big Bob said:
( December 26th, 2023 @ 3:09 pm )
 
Right, Because that's where most plastic pollution comes from. Bahahahahahahaha
( December 26th, 2023 @ 10:48 am )
 
The microplastics and harmful chemicals shed by wind turbines blades, both offshore and onshore are a big but hidden environmental problem
Big Bob said:
( December 26th, 2023 @ 9:09 am )
 
Mostly because their bellies are filled with plastic.



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