AP

NJ governor: No pause in wind farm prep after 7th dead whale

Jan 12, 2023, 10:33 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2023, 4:38 pm

The body of a humpack whale lies on a beach in Brigantine N.J., after it washed ashore on Friday, J...

The body of a humpack whale lies on a beach in Brigantine N.J., after it washed ashore on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. It was the seventh dead whale to wash ashore in New Jersey and New York in little over a month, prompting calls for a temporary halt in offshore wind farm preparation on the ocean floor from lawmakers and environmental groups who suspect the work might have something to do with the deaths. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

BRIGANTINE, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s governor said Friday he does not think undersea preparations for offshore wind farms should be halted in response to a recent spate of whale deaths in New Jersey and New York.

Democrat Phil Murphy spoke after lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels called for a temporary pause in ocean floor preparation work for offshore wind projects in New Jersey and New York after another dead whale washed ashore in the area.

Also on Friday, most of New Jersey’s environmental groups warned against linking offshore wind work and whale deaths, calling such associations “unfounded and premature.”

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, which itself has seen two dead whales on its beaches in recent weeks.

There was no immediate indication of what caused the latest death. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, based in Brigantine, said it and several other groups were formulating plans Friday for a post-mortem examination of the whale’s remains before the animal’s carcass is disposed of, most likely through burial on the beach.

“We should suspend all work related to offshore wind development until we can determine the cause of death of these whales, some of which are endangered,” said New Jersey state Sen. Vince Polistina, a Republican who represents the area. “The work related to offshore wind projects is the primary difference in our waters, and it’s hard to believe that the death of (seven) whales on our beaches is just a coincidence.”

Murphy said he does not think pausing offshore wind prep is necessary.

“This is tragic, obviously,” he said.

Murphy cited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which earlier this week said that no humpback whale — the species accounting for most of the recent whale deaths in New Jersey and New York — has been found to have been killed due to offshore wind activities.

“They have said it’s been happening at an increased rate since 2016, and that was long before there was any offshore wind activity,” the governor said. “It looks like some of these whales have been hit by vessels.”

Orsted, the Danish wind power developer tabbed to build two of the three offshore wind projects approved thus far in the waters off New Jersey, said its current work off the New Jersey coast does not involve using sounds or other actions that could disturb whales.

It did not say what specific type of work it is doing off New Jersey and did not answer that question in an email to The Associated Press on Friday.

The Clean Ocean Action environmental group said such site work typically involves exploring the ocean floor using focused pulses of low-frequency sound in the same frequency that whales hear and communicate, which could potentially harm or disorient the animals.

Brigantine’s mayor, Vince Sera, joined in the call for a temporary halt to offshore wind site prep, as did U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a Republican congressman representing southern New Jersey.

At a news conference Monday in Atlantic City, the groups calling on Biden to probe the deaths said offshore wind developers have applied for authorization to harass or harm as many as 157,000 marine mammals off the two states.

NOAA said 11 such applications are active in the area but involve nonserious injuries or harassment of marine animals, not killing them.

“NOAA Fisheries has not authorized, or proposed to authorize, mortality or serious injury for any wind-related action,” agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said.

Most of New Jersey’s major environmental groups said this week that they support offshore wind energy.

“The climate crisis demands that we quickly develop renewable energy, and offshore wind is critically important for New Jersey to reach the state’s economic development and environmental justice goals,” the groups said in a statement.

The groups include Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, the Sierra Club, New Jersey Audubon, NY/NJ Baykeeper and others.

“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,” said the Sierra Club’s New Jersey director, Anjuli Ramos-Busot.

“We need to base our decision making on science and data, not emotions or assumptions,” added Allison McLeod, policy director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

___

Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

8 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

2 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

2 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

3 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

3 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

4 days ago

NJ governor: No pause in wind farm prep after 7th dead whale