Evidence says offshore wind development is killing lots of whales

By David Wojick 

The recent deaths of seven whales off New Jersey, mostly humpbacks, got a lot of attention. The federal NOAA Fisheries agency is responsible for whales. An outrageous statement by their spokesperson got me to do some research on humpback whale deaths.

The results are appalling. The evidence seems clear that offshore wind development is killing whales by the hundreds.

Here is the statement as reported in the press:

“NOAA said it has been studying what it calls “unusual mortality events” involving 174 humpback whales along the East Coast since January 2016. Agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said that period pre-dates offshore wind preparation activities in the region.” Gaches is NOAA Fisheries press chief.

The “unusual mortality” data is astounding. Basically the humpback death rate roughly tripled starting in 2016 and continued high thereafter. You can see it here:

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2016-2023-humpback-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-atlantic-coast

But the claim that this huge jump in mortality predates offshore wind preparation activities is wildly false. In fact it coincides with the large scale onset of these activities. This strong correlation is strong evidence of causation, especially since no other possible cause has appeared.

To begin with, offshore lease sales really geared up 2015-16, with nine big sales off New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts. These sales must have generated a lot of activity, likely including potentially damaging sonar.

In fact 2016 also saw the beginning of what are called geotechnical and site characterization surveys. These surveys are actually licensed by NOAA Fisheries, under what are called Incidental Harassment Authorizations or IHA’s.

There is some seriously misleading jargon here. IHA’s are incidental to some other activity, in this case offshore wind development. They are not incidental to the whales. In fact the term “harassment” specifically includes injuring the whales. That is called “level A harassment”.

To date NOAA has issued an astounding 46 one-year IHA’s for offshore wind sites. Site characterization typically includes the protracted use of what I call “machine gun sonar”. This shipboard device emits an incredibly loud noise several times a second, often for hours at a time, as the ship slowly maps the sea floor.

Mapping often takes many days to complete. A blaster can log hundreds of miles surveying a 10-by-10 mile site. Each IHA is typically for an entire year.

Here is a list of the IHA’s issued to date and those applied for:

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-other-energy-activities-renewable

There are lots of ways this sonar blasting might cause whales to die. Simply fleeing the incredible noise could cause ship strikes or fish gear entanglements, the two leading causes of whale deaths. Of the whales could be deafened, increasing their chances of being struck by a ship later on. Direct bleeding injury, like getting their ears damaged, is another known risk, possibly leading to death from infection. So there can be a big time difference between blasting and death.

Note also that these deaths need not be in the immediate vicinity of the sonar blasting, so spatial correlation is unlikely. Humpbacks in particular are prodigious travelers. One group was tracked traveling 3,000 miles in just 28 days, over 100 miles a day on average. Another group routinely migrates 5,000 miles. Both are winter-summer migrations which can happen twice a year.

Thus a sonar blasting, site characterization in one place could easily lead to multiple whale deaths hundreds of miles away. If one of these blasters suddenly goes off near a group of whales they might go off in different directions, then slowly die.

The point is that the huge 2016 jump in annual humpback mortality coincides with the huge jump in NOAA Incidental Harassment Authorizations. It is that simple and surely NOAA Fisheries knows this.

Nor is this just about humpbacks. Some of the dead whales off New Jersey are endangered sperm whales. And of course there are the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales, on the verge of extinction.

Even worse, the IHA’s are about to make a much bigger jump. There are eleven pending IHA applications and eight of these are for actually constructing 8 different monster wind “farms”.

Driving the hundreds of enormous monopiles that hold up the turbine towers and blades will be far louder than the sonic blasters approved to date, especially with eight sites going at once. These construction sites range from Virginia to Massachusetts, with a concentration off New Jersey and New York.

For more on this noise see my https://www.cfact.org/2022/07/26/threat-to-endangered-whales-gets-louder/

Clearly we need a moratorium on new Incidental Harassment Authorizations until the safety of the whales and other marine species can be assured. Hundreds of whales may have already been killed by offshore wind activities. The evidence is right there.

Author

David Wojick

David Wojick Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy. For origins see http://www.stemed.info/engineer_tackles_confusion.html For over 100 prior articles for CFACT see http://www.cfact.org/author/david-wojick-ph-d/ Available for confidential research and consulting.

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jebstang66
January 23, 2023 6:15 pm

Where are environmentalists? Where is Greenpeace? Crickets?

Scissor
Reply to  jebstang66
January 23, 2023 8:30 pm

Freezing, at least Greta is.

TEWS_Pilot
Reply to  Scissor
January 23, 2023 9:52 pm

Her keeper is always around to protect her and run interference. Notice how she popped in at the end of the video clip and scolded the journalist.

Greta Thunberg’s ‘coach’ a Soros, Bill and Melinda Gates operative 1 May 2020
https://www.winterwatch.net/2022/02/greta-thunbergs-handler-luisa-marie-neubauer-is-a-rothschild/

I AM MALAYSIAN — Luisa-Marie Neu bauer, the “coach” of Greta Thunberg, is related to the founder of the Rothschild dynasty, Mayer Amschel Bauer, who changed his last name to Rothschild after returning to Frankfurt to take over his father’s business.

2hotel9
January 23, 2023 6:21 pm

How? Whales are the most intelligent animals on the planet! Far more intelligent than leftarded assholes pushing fake energy crap! Oh, yea. Quinn’s First Law. Never mind.

terry
January 23, 2023 6:30 pm

Bats, eagles, and other raptors, and now whales. R.I.P. The ideological beat must go on.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  terry
January 24, 2023 1:53 am

Bunch of damn fools. Killing things with these windmills and it’s all unnecessary because the science does not justify building windmills.

Marty
Reply to  Tom Abbott
January 24, 2023 5:30 am

The mass stupidity from our elitist “leaders” just boggles the mind. As you say, they are killing wildlife with these crazy windmills to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist. Are they insane?

Last edited 4 days ago by Marty
Brad-DXT
Reply to  Marty
January 24, 2023 9:15 am

They aren’t insane, they’re evil. Their plan to eliminate most of humanity has many facets.
They’re limiting energy sources to return humanity to pre-industrial times. They apparently want to eliminate whale oil as an energy source so this has to be part of the plan.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Marty
January 24, 2023 9:16 am

“The mass stupidity from our elitist “leaders” just boggles the mind.”

It really does.

It looks like a human herd mentality unfolding.

The big problem is the poliical leadership is caught up in this need to eliminate CO2, and so there is nobody to give the public the proper guidance to lead them out of this false reality that CO2 is dangerous and needs to be eliminated. The political leadership is promoting this delusion instead.

I don’t know what the solution is. All we can do is continue to point out that the “Emperor has no clothes”! (there’s no evidence CO2 is a dangerous gas). That, and falling temperatures may turn the tide.

wilpost
Reply to  Marty
January 24, 2023 2:36 pm

You think politicians lining their pockets with cash is stupid?
They are laughing all the way to the bank.
They have no shame.
Stolen secret documents are called “misplaced”, or “I do not know how it got there”

Look at what is happening in Ukraine.

Many of Lezinsky’s government ministers, etc., have been on the take big time, as the money comes rolling from the U.S., while poor, patriotic saps are dying and getting injured.

ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and demonstrates time and time again, i. e., it is an inborn incurable disease

antigtiff
Reply to  terry
January 24, 2023 7:01 am

What about the bees….and the butterflies….all the little insects?

Bob
January 23, 2023 6:37 pm

All off shore wind should be halted until it can be shown definitively that wind farms do not harm whales or other sea life.

Oldseadog
Reply to  Bob
January 24, 2023 3:39 am

All off shore (and on shore) wind farms should be halted until it can be shown definitively that CO2 is dangerous.

There, fixed it for you.

In addition, why the sudden increase in whale deaths in W. Atlantic waters? Olifield research sonar has been used by the offshore oil industry for many decades all over the world, including the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, without any apparent detriment to water inhabiting mammals. Could it be that the whale populations are increasing quickly so more older ones are being found dead?

Timo- Not That One
Reply to  Oldseadog
January 25, 2023 7:26 am

I just finished reading about how whale’s (and bird’s) navigation are adversely affected by infrasound, something proven to be a product of operating wind turbines.

doonman
January 23, 2023 6:56 pm

California started replacing thousands of windmills on the Altamont and Susuin right next to the Delta in 2015. By 2017 only two Delta Smelt were found and none since. Coincidence? I think not.

vboring
January 23, 2023 6:56 pm

How much of this harm is applicable on the West coast? And floating wind turbines.

California is planning to add thousands of floating wind turbines, many of them right in the backyard of NOAA research centers and the Monterey Bay Aquarium – which has a strong conservation emphasis.

warddoug1
Reply to  vboring
January 23, 2023 9:42 pm

Do floating wind turbines require the same IHAs as those permanently positioned? In particular, do they require machine gun sonar and installation monopiles?

Kevin Kilty
Reply to  warddoug1
January 24, 2023 12:48 pm

Their anchors must stay put to keep them put and the shear forces from winds and ocean currents are quite large. I’d say they probably don’t use just deadweight for anchorage, but pilings or a combination of pilings and dead weight.

CD in Wisconsin
January 23, 2023 7:11 pm

KILL WIND TURBINES, NOT AVIAN AND MARINE WILDLIFE.

Redge
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
January 23, 2023 11:13 pm

We should have T-Shirts and banners, and march down the streets of London.

Oh, wait, protests are reserved for the extreme left

Marty
Reply to  Redge
January 24, 2023 5:40 am

The other day ANIFTA rioted in Atlanta, GA. They smashed windows and burned police cars. How much do you want to bet that not a single one of them ever gets prosecuted, and that if by some freak chance a few do get prosecuted that they just get a suspended sentence. But the January 11th demonstrators were “insurrectionists” and the DOJ is hunting them down, arresting them and bringing them to trial and they are receiving serious jail time. The difference is that ANIFTA is the militia of the Democratic Party while the January 11th people were Trump’s people. Double standard from a weaponized government.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Marty
January 24, 2023 9:20 am

It turns out a lot of those Antifa rioters are rich kids (from the pictures, they all looked white) and they are from out of State and don’t live in Georgia.

Which leftwing billionaire is funding these leftwing terrorists?

Dena
January 23, 2023 7:54 pm

I used to look at world maps and noted that the oceans were blue. Then I noticed that all the newer maps had the ocean bottom in detail showing contours just like the land. I had to wait until about 4 or 5 years ago to learn how this happened from a person sitting about 8 feet away from me now.
In the late 1950s the navy had a problem. They had Subs that could remain underwater for a long time and those subs were able to carry nuclear missiles. With inertial navigation they could get a reasonable idea where they were but it wasn’t accurate enough to set a missiles inertial navigation so it could accurately hit a target.
They came up with the idea of mapping the ocean and defining firing points. To do this, they converted 3 victory ships with a special sonar system that scan the bottom with a 90 degree beam. The ships would spend a month going back and forth pinging the bottom and constructing detail maps. The ships had very accurate positioning equipment on board the the maps were accurate to within feet as the beams were only separated by one degree. This program went on for years as they mapped nearly the entire ocean bottom where ever a sub might go.
These maps are still restricted today because accuracy however it’s believed that Robert Ballard got a look at them as part of his deal with the navy that allowed him to look for the Titanic.
I don’t agree with wind power but the information they need is available and possible the navy can make an exception to provide them with most of what they need. They may still have to ping a specific site but the harm should be minimal.

titanic-was-found-during-secret-cold-war-navy-mission

https://www.tags-ship.com/

DMacKenzie
Reply to  Dena
January 24, 2023 7:20 am

It’s not bottom contour sonar that is the problem…It’s the explosive seismic charges to determine the undersea geology for pylons and windmill anchors. Whales can hear sounds a couple of hundred miles away…one can presume that seismic charges out to a mile or so… destroys their hearing, sense of balance, sense of dive depth, is probably agonizing to the point of suicidal behaviour.
The Navy mostly quit using explosives as a sonar “flash bulb” to see submarines when they found it killed cetacians for a couple of miles around the detonation point.

MarkW
January 23, 2023 9:29 pm

If they don’t care about the glaringly obvious killing of endangered raptors onshore, I don’t see how they will care about nearly invisible whale deaths offshore.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2023 2:03 am

Today’s enviromentalists are hypocrits. They pretend to be concerned about wildlife, but turn a blind eye when it comes to these horrible windmills.

Dean S
January 23, 2023 10:25 pm

Greenpiece are very happy to protest the gas industry doing these surveys. Wonder why they don’t take up the batton for the whales in this case?

Redge
Reply to  Dean S
January 23, 2023 11:16 pm

Greenpiss already have a campaign

Of course, they’re not interested because whales aren’t as important as Gaia

Nik
Reply to  Dean S
January 24, 2023 4:44 am

The gas industry has lots of money available for extortion. Whales not so much.

Redge
January 23, 2023 11:19 pm

I didn’t realise Star Trek: The Voyage Home was a documentary

Where’s Captain Kirk when you need him most?

PCman999
Reply to  Redge
January 24, 2023 8:03 am

There’s a nice picture: Kirk and crew, or Picard if you prefer, going back to our time to save the whales by swooping down in their Bird of Prey (how appropriate) to blast those wind turbines into artificial coral reefs.

garboard
January 24, 2023 12:30 am

sean hayes , senior US government official for endangered species , reported to the EPA and NOAA that offshore wind farms were the largest single danger for endangered right whales . the information was not released but was found thru freedom of information requests . easy to google . offshore wind is already a 30 billion $ industry

Rod Evans
January 24, 2023 12:43 am

Well it is one option for keeping the lamps lit, the real test will come when whale bone corsets also make a comeback…..
The downside of Climate Alarmism plumbs all depths….

Leo Smith
January 24, 2023 1:06 am

Nothing damages the environment like green energy

MarkW
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2023 4:22 pm

The environment, the economy, human health, …

Ben Vorlich
January 24, 2023 1:36 am

This is a serious question, amongst other things I suffer from tinnitus, broughton I believe from working for 40+ years in a fairly noisy environment. My wife gets fed up of having to speak to me several times before I respond especially if there’s background noise

Question is can Cetaceans suffer from permanent hearing impairment like tinnitus or reduced spectrum from exposure to loud or high levels of background noise? If so one assumes they suffer from the same problems of missing conversations and so on.

Right-Handed Shark
January 24, 2023 2:29 am

Now, where have I heard a similar story.. ah yes, the thousands of crabs, lobsters and other marine life washing up dead on the north east coast of England in recent times:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-63635778

Blame algae, toxins released by dredging (which they have been doing for decades with no previous issues), “Global Warming ®”.. anything except windmills and power cables:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-58869465

Last edited 4 days ago by Right-Handed Shark
Marty
January 24, 2023 5:56 am

Right now I’m reading a book (Revenge by Tom Bower, 2022) about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. On p. 288 the book describes how Prince Harry traveled by private jet and helicopter to a Google Camp in Sicily to speak about a climate change crisis. “His plane was one of 114 private jets, as well as a fleet of super yachts, that had ferried billionaires and celebrities to the festival.” Isn’t this all the proof we need that these people don’t actually think global warming is real?

Windmills are big money. The whales be damned.

Paul Johnson
January 24, 2023 6:26 am

How do these activities and their effects compare with the Gulf of Mexico where somewhat similar work has taken place for decades in support of oil & gas development?

antigtiff
January 24, 2023 7:13 am

Sperm whales have the largest brain of any animal….maybe they will figure out that windmills are bad and can be destroyed by ramming them.

Rud Istvan
January 24, 2023 7:16 am

What is really stupid is off shore wind economics. I corrected the deliberately false EIA LCOE for on shore wind compared to CCGT. CCGT $68/MWh compared to wind (Based on ERCOT at then 10% penetration) $146. So about 2.5x. EIA claims (probably low) that off shore wind is 3x on shore, so about 7.5x.Makes no sense at all.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 24, 2023 11:57 am

Only makes sense for the people who build these worse-than-useless things, who have their pockets filled at taxpayer expense.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 25, 2023 8:39 am

Enough subsidy can make anything economic.

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
January 24, 2023 8:39 am

Amazing how the Left can ignore anything that doesn’t agree with their world view. They want to believe that wind and solar is an environmental and economic panacea so they believe it.

Conservatives understand that wind and solar cannot power a modern society because of economic and scientific reality.
Liberal/progressives want to believe that because wind and solar are “free”, that W&S can be made workable.
They simply, as a Quora contributor recently explained: “.,.sacrifice best knowable truth for emotion-preserving narrative…and unfortunately, that’s where almost all of the Political Left lives and rants and rages these days”.
It’s not good or bad, it’s just reality. About half the population is delusional, but their vote counts the same as a realists. It’s not their fault, it’s a genetic condition from the time of birth IMHO. Makes for a struggle.

Energywise
January 24, 2023 9:46 am

And where is the environmental outcry? Is the loss of whales acceptable collateral damage to the faux greenies? Don’t let any species get in the way of cash printing, useless wind energy seems to be the mantra

Kevin Kilty
January 24, 2023 12:42 pm

David,

The disregard of wildlife concerns when it comes to “planet saving” measures is widespread. Here is a snippet from the EA prepared by the BLM for one of the 1000 sq. mi. of permitted projects near me about deaths to bald eagles (LAP=local area population)…

 Currently, there are six operational projects within this LAP for which take of Bald Eagles is authorized (Seven Mile, Dunlap, Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Phase 1, Pioneer, Glenrock/Rolling Hills, and Top of the World wind projects). Taken together, this Project’s take and the overlapping take of the other projects could result in a total annual take of 14.8 Bald Eagles (or 28.2% of the LAP). This is above the 5% benchmark; however, the North American Breeding Bird Survey population trend (1966-2019) estimate for Bald Eagles in Wyoming and Project LAP is 9.9% and 18.4%, respectively…It is reasonable to assume that the Bald Eagle population in the Project vicinity is increasing and the conservative take estimate at the Project would not contribute to declines in the overall Bald Eagle population in the EMU….”

See? Huge mortality estimate but not to worry.

In connection with whales there is some evidence that their land relatives, our ungulates like pronghorn, dislike something about wind turbines as they seemingly avoid operating wind plants long after the construction phase. My view is that ungulates being prey are highly vigilant and the noise from turbines and constant motion of blades simply taxes their sensory input. Whales, being imbedded in a medium of high sound velocity and high density must really hate high energy, impulsive sound at great distances.

I am following your efforts closely.

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