The Quest for the Holy Whale

Cumberland County GOP Chair Michael Testa.

Senator Mike Testa sarcastically noted the other day that if oil drilling rigs were suspected of killing whales, environmentalists would be memorializing the dead mammals by singing kumbaya.

Sarcasm often is used to make a point and this is the point Testa made at a May 3 hearing convened by Senate Republicans: Why aren’t more environmental groups concerned about a possible link between dead whales washing up on the Jersey Shore and sonar equipment being used to prepare for offshore wind turbine constriction?
Speakers at the meeting said there have been 19 dead whales and dolphins found on New Jersey and Long Island beaches from March, 2022 to March, 2023.

Why?

This may be a question for science, but everything these days is political.

Republicans, who have never been gung-ho about offshore wind in the first place, want to put a temporary hold on work related to turbine construction. The latest hearing followed one a few weeks ago organized by Rep. Jeff Van Drew.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone sent out a statement before the hearing in Trenton even began.

“Republicans at the federal and state level need to stop their opposition to offshore wind,” is how it began. Later, Pallone said:

“The food source whales depend on is moving closer to the busy shipping lanes near the Port of New York and New Jersey as ocean temperatures rise, leaving them vulnerable to vessel strikes and entanglements.” And that, he said, is what’s responsible for most of the recent deaths.

Others agree that warming ocean water has forced whales to move north in search of cooler seas,  where they may encounter the busy shipping lanes of the New York-New Jersey area.

No one at the hearing, which was chaired by state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, of Morris County, questioned that.

However, it was pointed out that many of the deaths occurred in winter months when shipping lanes are normally less busy.

There also remains a question as to why whales and dolphins are being struck by ships. Is it just bad luck, or are they disoriented by the sound of sonar work related to the wind turbines?

While this saga typically breaks down along traditional liberal and conservative lines, that is not true 100 percent of the time.

Some environmental groups attended the hearing and echoed what Republicans were saying.

Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said it looks like offshore wind construction is just moving “too fast.”

Trisha DeVoe, a marine biologist, said it’s possible that construction preparation activity could frighten whales and cause them to flee – thereby putting themselves in harm’s way. There may not be evidence of that at the moment, but DeVoe said one can not find evidence unless one looks for it.

And that is what Bucco said that he and like-minded Republicans want.

Bucco said that so far the debate has been framed by offshore wind supporters such as both the Biden and Murphy administrations. His hearing – and the earlier one by VanDrew – clearly were designed to counter that.

Bucco and others suggested that a construction pause of say, 30 or 60 days, may offer some clarity. For example, if offshore wind work stops and mammals are still being killed, it may suggest that the deaths are unrelated to the work. Logically, the reverse would send a message as well.

He said he hopes that as whales and dolphins continue to die in unprecedented numbers, someone on the other side of this debate will hear the critics and say, “Hey, maybe there is something here.”

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3 responses to “The Quest for the Holy Whale”

  1. Senator Mike Testa has a point that ” if oil drilling rigs were suspected of killing whales, environmentalists would be memorializing the dead mammals by singing kumbaya.” However, that is only one side of this hypocrisy coin. The other side is that if liberals were claiming that oil drilling rigs were killing marine life, Senator Testa and others in the tank for the oil industry would be dismissing their concerns no matter how damning the evidence was. Testa surely knows that correlation is not causation but that won’t stop him and other opportunists from taking political advantage of the whale and dolphin deaths.

  2. NJBlech makes an absurd point in his lame attempt to politicize the whale & dolphin deaths at the NJ shore. First he talks about Senator Testa’s point that IF oil rigs were suspected of killing whales, environmentalists would be memorializing the dead mammals by singing kumbaya. The assumption NJBlech made is Senator Testa and others (read: Republicans) would be in the tank for the oil industry dismissing environmentalists’ concerns. NJBlech is talking about a hypothetical where nobody or nothing was killed. SO IT’S A WRONG ANALOGY!!!

    We are NOT talking about oil wells off of NJ at this time in history. We are currently talking about the reality of the possible construction of the 2nd largest (4000 turbines) offshore wind turbine farm in the world (after Communist China leading the way with 7800 wind turbines). Not only is it killing whales and dolphins, it will also kill tourism and commercial & party boat/charter boat fishing because of the ugly windmills sitting out in the water off of the beaches affecting the fishing grounds.

    We are talking about Governor Phil KNUCKLEHEAD being in bed with Orsted Wind Turbine Company that’s killing the whales and dolphins with their sonar and sonic detection and measuring systems. We are talking real life here; not politicized hypotheticals!!!

  3. Where were these Senators that are now just raising this issue when according to a recent Rutgers University Marine Science Dept reporting of data from NOAA that tracks whale stranding, more stranding have occurred along the NJ-NY coast – well before any offshore wind development.

    Did these Senators call for or join “the other side ” in calling for hearings on why there were whale standings before now back in 2000, 2003, and 2005 or in 2006 when 48 whales were stranded along the NJ – NY coast? According to the Rutgers report even the period between 1985 and 1992 had similar standings. Any calls to join the other side for hearings? To quote the Senators “If whale stranding occurred before any offshore wind it may suggest that the deaths are unrelated to the offshore wind work?”
    See
    https://marine.rutgers.edu/announcements/rutgers-offshore-wind-energy-collaborative/

    Where were the Senators joining in singing Kumbaya when this issue was and is raised about the global search for offshore oil using significantly more intense seismic testing? How about all the oil spills killing wildlife like the San Barbara spill in 1972, the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and the BP Deepwater Horizon 2010 or even the Hackensack River oil spill in 1976 in New Jersey? no Kumbaya? than maybe its just politics
    see NOAA map on largest oil spills since 1969 https://response.restoration.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/2015_largest-oil-spills-us-waters_noaa.jpg

    The questions to ask is has this been an issue in the EU offshore wind projects – they have had decades more experience and probably a higher level of sustainability and environmental concerns than the US. Let start there with real facts and data and look at real solutions than we can all sing Kumbaya instead of just playing politics.

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