🐋 NJ commits millions to study impact of offshore wind projects on marine life

🐋 Gov. Murphy says work will not stop while the studies are conducted

🐋 Many continue to believe offshore wind work is killing whales and dolphins

As dead whales and dolphins continue to show up on New Jersey beaches, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says there is no scientific data linking those deaths to work related to offshore wind projects.

New Jersey and the state Board of Public Utilities is committing $8.5 million to study the potential impact. From mapping the migration patterns of marine life to listening for whale sounds off the Jersey shore, the research will be carried out by multiple organizations.

Locations of 13 whales that have washed up on NJ/NY beaches since December or been spotted floating in the water
Locations of 13 whales that have washed up on NJ/NY beaches since December or been spotted floating in the water (Canva)

Monmouth University, Stockton University and the Atlantic Marine Conservation society will lead much of the research.

Among the projects announced on Wednesday: (From NJDEP)

🐋 Deployment and maintenance of a whale detection buoy off the coast of Atlantic City: The buoy will listen for whales, and detections will be reviewed and used to inform NOAA’s Slow Zones for Right Whales program to mitigate risks associated with vessel strikes and future construction noise.

🐬 An Environmental DNA (eDNA) study: eDNA is a relatively new, non-invasive approach for monitoring species that are protected or otherwise important to maintaining the ecological integrity of coastal waters and are important to New Jersey's recreational and commercial fisheries. This study will result in data that will contribute to the future assessment of potential impacts of OSW on the diversity of organisms in the waters off New Jersey's coastline during and after construction.

🚢 A study to better understand the movement patterns and health of New Jersey's harbor seals, a key predator species: A robust population of harbor seals spends its winters in the Great Bay area north of Atlantic City, but more data is necessary is to better understand how harbor seals use the offshore space where wind energy leases are located.

👂 Deployment of archival passive acoustic monitoring equipment to better understand the distribution and habitat use of whale species, including the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, in the waters along New Jersey's coastline. This project will be part of a larger effort that includes collaboration with nearby state, regional, and federal entities seeking to protect marine mammals as offshore wind farms are developed along the eastern seaboard.

The most recent dolphin strandings in New Jersey
The most recent dolphin strandings in New Jersey (Canva)

Opponents of offshore wind projects have tried to link the projects to the deaths of the marine mammals and have called for a pause to any work until the issue can be studied.

While agreeing to study the potential impacts, Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly said there will be no work stoppage.

In announcing the additional funding, New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette continued to stress the importance of offshore wind projects. "Development of offshore wind energy is a vital component of the Murphy Administration's work to mitigate and respond to the worsening impacts of climate change," LaTourette said in a statement.

NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso did stress the importance of understanding the potential harm to marine life. "We are deeply committed to doing all we can to ensure our offshore wind projects are implemented in as ecologically responsible a way as possible," Fiordaliso said.

(AP/Seth Wenig/Michael Dwyer)
(AP/Seth Wenig/Michael Dwyer)

New Jersey 101.5 continues to look into the potential impacts of these projects, and research the work that is currently being done.

The companies that currently working on the projects have responded to our many questions about the work being done.

David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ
David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

You can read what they have to say about the matter by clicking HERE.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

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