Lawmakers call for pause on offshore wind as eight dolphins wash up on New Jersey shore

Wind Energy
FILE – In this May 4, 2012 file photo, a commercial scallop fishing boat enters the Manasquan Inlet in Point Pleasant, N.J. Commercial fishing companies, trade groups and three fishing-based municipalities are seeking to delay the lease sale of an Atlantic Ocean site between New York and New Jersey that federal officials envision as the home of a massive offshore wind energy project. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File) Wayne Parry/AP

Lawmakers call for pause on offshore wind as eight dolphins wash up on New Jersey shore

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Lawmakers called for a pause on offshore wind power construction Wednesday after eight dolphins washed up and died in a “mass stranding event” Tuesday in Sea Isle City, New Jersey.

“We are not even in the construction stage of these industrial wind turbine grids, yet we are already witnessing a highly unusual mortality rate of these intelligent marine animals,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) said in a statement Wednesday that referred to the recent spikes in deaths of both dolphins and whales, noting that the siting and pre-construction activities are being conducted “right in the middle of their feeding and breeding grounds,” as well as their migration routes.

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Van Drew introduced a congressional resolution Tuesday calling on the Biden administration to halt all such activities until full environmental and economic impact reports can be completed.

“It is irresponsible for federal agencies to continually tell the public that there is no connection whatsoever between offshore wind surveying and these tragic marine mammal deaths without providing actual evidence and facts backing up the assertion,” he said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said Wednesday that the offshore wind project represents a “potentially catastrophic threat” to the coast.

“The industrial wind farm approval process has been shoddy at best, leaving unaddressed and unanswered questions concerning the extraordinarily harmful environmental impact on marine life and the ecosystems that allow all sea creatures great and small to thrive,” he said.

The local Marine Mammal Stranding Center said two of the dolphins found Tuesday were already dead. Onlookers immediately called the police and helped public works crews pour buckets of seawater on the remaining six dolphins in a desperate effort to keep them alive. None survived.

But the dolphin deaths are just the latest in a massive spike in marine mammal deaths along the East Coast: Since December, 23 whales, including humpback whales and endangered North American right whales, have washed ashore along the coast.

There has also been an increase in dolphin deaths: Just six days ago, an adult and her calf died after washing ashore on yet another New Jersey beach, according to the MMSC.

Their deaths have sparked calls from lawmakers, local officials, and conservation groups in New Jersey and the surrounding region immediately halt all offshore wind activity as they work to investigate the deaths. They have said that the whales and dolphins could be harmed in the process of building the wind turbines, potentially from noise and sonar emissions during the siting pre-construction phase for the turbines. There is also a heightened possibility of vessel strikes during the siting and construction process.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) tweeted, “The continued death and destruction of our offshore wildlife is nothing short of breathtaking.”

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Earlier this month, Smith said in an interview that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s explanation for the whale deaths, that vessel strikes are to blame, is insufficient, noting that it fails to take into consideration the possibility that construction has thrown off the delicate sonar systems that whales and other marine mammals rely on for navigation and communication.

“What I’m very troubled by, in every category of concern, whether it be the seabed itself, the habitat of ours, which is unbelievably robust, and all the other sea mammals — fish, spawning, entire series of habitats — are going to be destroyed,” he said.

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