Over the past few months, 18 dead whales have been found ashore along the East Coast, sparking alarm among conservationists, politicians and renewable energy advocates alike.
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In the New York/New Jersey area alone, seven dead whales have washed ashore since January 1. This is of particular concern because this section of the Atlantic Ocean is home to the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered species in the world.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says whale deaths have been increasing since 2016, and more than 170 humpback whales have been found dead in that time. Whale necropsy results revealed two main causes of death for nearly half the whales studied: boat collisions and entanglements in nets or other ocean-borne trash. Some whales also showed signs of malnutrition.
Environmental activists, however, are blaming the recent whale deaths on the controversial construction of offshore wind turbines in the area.
Patrick Moore, the former president of Greenpeace Canada, spoke out on the topic in a recent interview with Fox News. In the interview, he explained that digging foundations for the turbines churns up a huge amount of sediment from the ocean bottom. He said it’s possible that the waterborne debris particles could clog the whales’ baleen, the long bristles they use to filter seawater in search of krill, their main source of food.
Other biologists place blame on the sonar equipment used to map the ocean bottom. This source of noise could be interfering with whales’ own sonar, one of the main tools they use to find one another and navigate underwater.
For now, NOAA scientists say that there is no evidence that wind turbines are actually causing whale deaths; the baleen theory and the sonar theory are just that—theories. Some scientists also note that equipment used for deep-sea mining and oil extraction is much more harmful to ocean life than what’s used to install offshore wind farms.
For now, the whale deaths remain a mystery. But the most likely culprits at the moment are increased boating accidents—not new wind farms.