‘Whale lives matter’ — Major NJ protest demands ‘truth’ as deaths pile up
🐳 Hundreds filled the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach in support of a pause in wind projects
🐳 Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, told the crowd on World Whale Day that the Biden and Murphy administrations have ignored a letter from him and Jersey Shore mayors calling for the pause.
🐳 American Clean Energy said detractors of wind energy are spreading misinformation
POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Chanting "whale lives matter," hundreds bundled up on the boardwalk Sunday afternoon to join the call for a pause in wind projects so the impact on marine life can be researched.
Ten whales have died after washing on New Jersey and New York beaches since December. The latest was Friday at Far Rockaway in Queens. Three dolphins were also found dead Saturday in the shallow water off Sandy Hook.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, told the crowd at Jenkinson's on World Whale Day that the Biden and Murphy administrations have ignored a letter from him and Jersey Shore mayors calling for the pause.
“We demand to be heard and our deep concerns addressed — not trivialized, mocked or dismissed. We want the truth. The people of New Jersey deserve better," Smith said. “There is great concern for the potential serious — even catastrophic — damage to marine ecosystems leading to the destruction of New Jersey’s fishing and tourism businesses if hundreds, and even thousands, of wind turbines are installed off the New Jersey coast."
Damaged whale ears?
Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra, who has been a critic of the wind turbine projects, called the beached whales a "grave crisis."
"Even if some whales are dying from boat strikes, what is causing this massive increased prevalence of boat strikes in such a short period? Whales have been navigating around boats since boats were invented. Why now do they seemingly have an inability to do so anymore?" Kanitra said.
Kanitra cited the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, which said that examining whale ears for damage is difficult because ear bones decompose relatively quickly.
"Unfortunately, in the case of the Humpback whales that have washed ashore in New Jersey already deceased, the carcasses were already too decomposed for the internal parts of the ear bones to be viable," the center said on Facebook last week.
Stafford Township Mayor Greg Myhre estimated the crowd as approximately 1,000.
"There is no rush to fill our oceans with skyscraper-sized windmills before we understand the effects on our marine environment," he said in a post on his Facebook page.
Supporters say wind energy detractors spread misinformation
Supporters of the wind turbines being built off the coast, including Gov. Phil Murphy, say the theory that the turbine work and equipment are affecting whales and other marine life is misinformation that has been debunked.
American Clean Power, a group that represents renewable energy companies, points to research showing the patterns of whale movement was charging before offshore wind work started and lay blame on climate change.
It also refers to research by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center that the Atlantic Coast humpback population is healthy and growing with increased sightings in an area that is a busy shipping area.
The Stranding Center says there have been an average of seven whale strandings per year in New Jersey over the past 20 years. In the past two years, that number has been just or below the average after highs in 2019 and 2020 with 12 strandings both years.
"We have always worked alongside the environmental community to protect marine life and follow rigorous standards when developing projects. The recent whale strandings are tragic but there is no evidence that these incidents have anything to do with offshore wind activity," spokesman Jason Ryan said.
Ryan declined to say whether or not ACP supports the pause in work called for by Smith and a dozen Jersey Shore mayors.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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