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Whale deaths have skyrocketed since wind farms have been erected in the Atlantic Ocean of the east coast on the U.S. NOAA has been studying what it calls unusual mortality events of 174 humpback whales along the entire U.S. East Coast since January 2016. Ocean Wind Farms generate noise in a frequency that is believed to adversely affect whales, and the physical structure of the structures may also pose other hazard to migrating whales. Late February, 3 dolphins turned up dead on Sandy Hook Bay.
The first ocean wind farm constructed off the east coast of the United States was the Block Island Wind Farm, constructed in 2016 off the coast of Rhode Island. It produces 30 megawatts. Since then, unexplained whale deaths have occurred near ocean wind farms. You may also want to see this page about other problems at wind farms.
"Right whales" is actually the name of a species of whale, a species that had almost been hunted to extinction because whalers thought it was the "right" whale to hunt (hence the name).
The graphic below was updated by NOAA on 7/20/2023. ccording to NOAA, only 57 new Right whale calves have been born since 2017. NOAA reports the Right whale populate has declined from 368 at the beginning of 2023 to fewer than 350 by July 2023! And during that same timeframe, Right whale fatalities and serious injuries and illnesses went up from 94 to 115.
Early on, the dangers were thought to be limited to
But recently, other dangers have emerged.
Sonic harm: The low-frequency sounds generated by the wump-wump sounds of the rotating wind turbine blades is now thought to be so loud, and of a frequency harmful to the whales that it actually damages their hearing and causes deaths in the whales. One theory holds that whales sensitive hearing organs are irrevocably damaged by the sounds from the wind farms and this causes the disoriented whales to beach. Research shows that many beached whales had hearing damage. Right whales, and other large cetaceans such as humpback, fin and minke whales, are of particular concern regarding the construction and operation of wind turbines because of the relatively low frequency at which they vocalize.
When workers construct offshore wind turbines, they use a loud pile driver to anchor the windmill to the seabed. Water magnifies sounds, so underwater the pile driver’s noise can reach levels up to 220 decibels. Putting this number into perspective, 150 decibels of sound can burst human eardrums, and 185 to 200 decibels is the range usually considered to be the threshold for causing human death.
Electromagnetic fields produces by the turbines and their cables are also of concern. It is thought that many marine life rely on natural electromagnetic fields for location and orientation. This artificially produced fields could disrupt this. An impact statement from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the NJ project would have minimal impact on ocean life, including marine mammals, but could adversely affect commercial fisheries.
Roughly 46 dead humpback whales have washed ashore on the Atlantic coast since January, prompting concern from NOAA.
The whale was found around 6:30 a.m. Monday at Lido Beach West Town Park, located in the town of Hempstead, Nassau County police said.In December 2022, a 30-foot humpback whale washed ashore in Atlantic City, NJ, its cause of death unknown. It was the third dead whale to appear on the Jersey Shore since December. As an update, in November 2023, the Danish energy company Ørsted announced that it would pull out of a billion-dollar project to build wind turbines off the New Jersey coast. Ørsted said, “Since the announcement, the US offshore wind projects have experienced further negative developments”.
On January 30, 2023, a huge 35-foot-long male humpback whale washed up on the shore of Lido Beach West Town Park, in Hempstead, NY, which is on Long Island in Nassau County, NY.
The New York Energy Research and Development Authority has awarded contracts for offshore wind farms, with the first phase expected to be
complete by 2024. The first phase includes dozens of wind turbines in two different offshore locations which are the largest offshore wind
farms in North America and among the largest in the world. They are expected to generate 1700 megawatts. That is enough to power more than 1 million
homes. The next phase, to be completed by 2035, would include hundreds of turbines and generate 9,000 megawatts.
Six whales washed ashore in northern California in a two month period in 2015.
Marine environmental experts blame offshore wind turbines for the deaths of three minke whales that washed up on British beaches in May near several offshore wind farms.
According to Rutgers University whale researchers, humpback whales return to locations off the coast of New York and New Jersey every year. And more whales come each year as whales will learn and copy the migration behavior from other whales. . At present, no one can prove what the cause of death of the whales, both humpback and Right whales, is. It could be:
About the unusual frequency of whale deaths, NOAA says:
Since January 2016, NOAA Fisheries has been monitoring an Unusual Mortality Event for humpback whales with elevated strandings along the entire East Coast. To date, there are 178 humpback whale mortalities included in the UME. Partial or full necropsy examinations were conducted on approximately half of the whales. Of the whales examined, about 40 percent had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike or entanglement. Vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the greatest human threats to large whales.
The preliminary cause of mortality, serious injury, and morbidity (sublethal injury and illness) in most of these whales is from rope entanglements or vessel strikes.
"NOAA officials said they have been studying the phenomenon of humpback whales dying at elevated rates along the East Coast since January 2016. During that period, 178 of the animals have washed ashore dead between Maine and Florida.
In no case, authorities said, has a whale been proven to have been killed by offshore wind activity."
Immediately report any sightings of injured or stranded whales (dead or alive).
In the United States, call the Greater Atlantic Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at (866) 755-6622 or the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at (877) 433-8299. You can also contact the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards on VHF Channel 16. Do not approach injured or dead animals.
In Canada, call the Marine Animal Response Society at (866) 567-6277 or the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network at (877)
The issue is controversial, even among groups which are normally allied.
The Clean Ocean Action environmental group is opposed, saying said building ocean wind farms typically involves exploring the ocean floor using focused pulses of low-frequency sound in the same frequency that whales hear and communicate.
A group of of residents, homeowners, business owners, fishermen and visitors called "Protect Our Coast NJ", has been documenting the whale deaths on the coasts of New Jersey and New York, concerned that wind farms will destroy the habitat of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
In early 2020, StopTheseThings.com noted:
With research showing that beached whales were stranded after becoming deaf, it’s surely time to stop the madness and reassess the wind industry. Damaged hearing – the ‘primary reason’ for the beaching of whales
In April last year, a headline in Taiwan’s Taipei Times read “Beached whales’ hearing badly damaged”.
But, the Sierra Club's New Jersey director, Anjuli Ramos-Busot said “"Blaming offshore wind projects on whale mortality without evidence is not only irresponsible but overshadows the very real threats of climate change, plastic pollution, and unsustainable fishery management practices to these animals,".
In shallow waters, wind turbines may be on fixed platforms that go down into the ocean floor. But, in deeper waters, as shown in the diagram, ocean wind turbines can be floating (tethered to the sea floor), Buoy-like, or more-or-less anchored to the sea floor.
The U.S. Dept of Energy has a nice animated graphic that explains the process.
Here is a simple schematic that explains how an ocean wind turbine generates power and transmit it to the shore.
Have you heard about the solar power plant the incinerates and explodes about 6,000 birds per year?
Many references are incorporated into the text above, by the links to the sources. Below are additional references.
"... another dead whale washed ashore in the area. ...The death was the seventh in a little over a month. The spate of fatalities prompted an environmental group and some citizens groups opposed to offshore wind to ask President Biden earlier this week for a federal investigation into the deaths. The latest death Thursday was that of a 20- to 25-foot-long (6- to 7.6-meter-long) humpback whale. Its remains washed ashore in Brigantine, just north of Atlantic City"
Philly Voice - JANUARY 10, 2023 "Protestors claim N.J. wind farm project is killing whales, but a marine scientist says that's 'unlikely' Three whales have washed ashore on New Jersey beaches since Dec. 10. Though the effects of electromagnetic fields on marine life are not well studied, their deaths likely were caused by other factors".
Impacts of Noise from Wind Farm Construction and Installation on Large Whales A Brief Summary Karen Stamieszkin Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies
Associated Press - Groups seek probe of N.Y.-N.J. whale deaths amid wind power prep
By Wayne Parry, January 10, 2023
There is a full listing of all (land and sea) wind energy projects supported by DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), at the Projects Map and select Program Area: Environmental Impacts and Siting.
Below is a list of leases and grants that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has executed since the inception of its renewable energy program, as well as links to the necessary administrative forms and studies that have informed BOEM's wind energy lease sales.
Individual Lease Sales
Interim Policy (IP) Leases
Right-of Way Grants
BOEM has studied different auction systems for issuing renewable energy leases, easements, and rights-of-way on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). BOEM issued a contract to Power Auctions, LLC to study different types of auctions for this purpose. BOEM published the study in three parts, and is available at the links below:
BOEM also published a paper (Summary of Renewable Energy Auction Formats under Consideration by BOEM) to facilitate public comment on auction format options, as presented in the Auction Format Information Request (AFIR) published by BOEM in the Federal Register on December 2, 2011.
Since these studies were conducted, BOEM conducted significant outreach and developed a revised auction format, which can be found in Final Sale Notices for specific wind energy lease sales, as shown below.