Jersey Shore town calls for offshore wind stop amid whale deaths
🐋 Brigantine City Council has passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on offshore wind projects
🐋 Three dead whales have washed up on Atlantic County shores in one month
🐋 Federal officials say there's no evidence that work for offshore wind power is causing the whale deaths
Brigantine is demanding a complete stop to all work for offshore wind power until federal and state agencies investigate whether the projects are responsible for a spate of recent whale deaths.
"This resolution isn’t about being for or against ocean wind projects, it’s about our due diligence and getting real scientifically supported facts about the potential impacts that these ocean wind projects could have on whales and other marine life," Mayor Vince Sera said in a statement.
Gov. Phil Murphy last week called the whale deaths "tragic" but said offshore wind projects would not be halted.
City council voted nearly unanimously to approve a resolution calling for the moratorium at Wednesday night's meeting, with one member Rick Delucry voting to abstain. Delucry told New Jersey 101.5 that while he supported researching the cause of the whale deaths, he did not see a reason to blame offshore wind.
"From the facts on hand, I don't jump to the conclusion that there is a cause and effect between unspecified work being done by the wind developer and the deaths of these whales," Delucry said. "I believe the NOAA has reached the contrary conclusion. So, I don't see anything warranting a shutdown of the offshore wind development activities."
🐋 Environmental group demands pause for NJ offshore wind farms
Brigantine is the first government body to call for a stop officially, but the resolution echoes a letter sent to President Biden earlier this month from Long Branch-based environmental group Clean Ocean Action demanding a stop and an investigation.
Three whales have washed up on beaches in Brigantine and Atlantic City since Dec. 23.
On Jan. 9, Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, called the number of deaths unprecedented. At the time, six whales had turned up dead in the region within a little over a month.
“Is it an omen?” Zipf said. “Is it an alarm? Never before have we had six whales wash up in 33 days.”
A seventh whale washed ashore on Jan. 15. According to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, the whale died from a vessel strike.
🐋 Authorities say no evidence offshore wind causing NJ whale deaths
Despite calls from some environmental groups, lawmakers, and now Brigantine, to stop work on offshore wind farms, federal officials insist there is no evidence the undersea projects are causing the deaths.
Benjamin Laws, deputy chief for permits and conservation with NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, said there is not a single proven case of a whale death being caused by offshore wind activity, the Associated Press reported.
“I want to be unambiguous: There is no information supporting that any of the equipment used in support of offshore wind development could directly lead to the death of a whale,” Law said. “There are no known connections between any offshore wind activities and any whale strandings.”
Brian Hooker, a biology team lead for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told the AP that surveying work being done off the coasts of New York and New Jersey has not been known to injure whales, but some methods could change the mammals' behavior.
And Erica Staaterman, a bioacoustician for BOEM's Center for Marine Acoustics, said surveying equipment for offshore wind is quieter and causes smaller disturbances than equipment for oil or gas. She also told the AP there was no evidence of this work being linked to whale deaths.
But Mayor Sera said the lack of evidence "is exactly the point."
"We need more scientific, fact-based data before anything can be confidently determined about the cause of these whale deaths," Sera said. "And, until we have that data, isn't it worth pausing these ocean wind projects which could potentially have major long term impacts on our marine mammal populations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.