The picturesque ocean of New Jersey is set to feature hundreds of turbines that will provide millions with ‘clean energy’ – but it could be deadly for marine life.
Residents, lawmakers and activists are fighting against such projects, claiming companies blasting the seafloor with sonar are behind dozens of whales and dolphins in the past year.
Approximately 16 whales have died, and 72 were found stranded, along with 53 beached dolphins along the coast from December 2022, a New Jersey resident told DailyMail.com.
Sonar is used to map the seafloor for suitable windmill locations, but many believe the loud sound is disrupting animals’ movements, sending them into boats or onto the shore.
The deaths recently caught the attention of comedian and actor Jim Breuer, a former star of Saturday Night Live, who told DailyMail.com that the rotting carcass on beaches ‘comes down to the root of all demonic evil – greed and money.’
‘Sonar is how these mammals communicate, so you are paralyzing them,’ Breuer said.
‘I’m tired of politicians and any humanitarian cause that, at the end of the day, their true cause is greed and the love of money and the power of money to take advantage of humanity when they’re slaughtering marine life.’
The deaths recently caught the attention of comedian and actor Jim Breuer, a former star of Saturday Night Live, who told DailyMail.com that the rotting carcass on beaches ‘comes down to the root of all demonic evil – greed and money’
Breuer released a new documentary with director James Malin called ‘Big Wind & The Incidental Take, a story about New Jersey, Green Energy & Dead Whales.’
The pair spoke with New Jersey residents, activists and lawmakers about the link between whale deaths and offshore windfarms.
Toms River resident Trisha DeVoe, a conservation biologist and activist for Save our Whales, told DailyMail.com: ‘Over the previous 10-year period, from 2013-2022, the average number of humpback whales to strand in New Jersey yearly was 2.6.
‘In the 12 months from December 22 to the present, there were 11 humpback whale strandings in New Jersey, more than four times the previous 10-year average.
‘We hunted whales to near extinction, and scientists estimate that we only have about anywhere from 25 to 33 percent of the historical numbers before the whaling industry.
‘Some scientists estimate that bringing our whale populations back to the pre-whaling levels would capture 1.7 trillion tons of carbon every year.’
DeVoe said she and many other New Jersey residents are calling for a stop to the projects until independent research can determine what is killing the marine life.
New Jersey has some of the nation’s most ambitious targets for building offshore wind as Democrat Governor Phil Murphy aims for 11 GW of capacity by 2040.
Toms River resident Trisha DeVoe, a conservation biologist, told DailyMail.com: ‘In the 12 months from December 22 to the present, there were 11 humpback whale strandings in New Jersey, more than four times the previous 10-year average’
Many New Jersey residents are calling for a pause on off-shore wind construction until independent research can be done to show if sonar is linked to whale deaths
Murphy has also committed to having 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and entirely powered by clean energy by 2035.
DailyMail.com has contacted Murphy for comment.
Mike Dean, a Mammoth County resident, told DailyMail.com: ‘When you get down to what they provide because they’re not clean green.
‘When you look at what goes into building them, and how long it takes for them to produce energy that covers their construction costs.
‘Even their documents say they don’t provide a benefit environmentally, or, you know, to the fight against climate change.’
Companies use sonar to map the seafloor to find suitable locations for turbines, which blow extremely loud air guns onto the ocean floor every 10 seconds.
According to Oceana, the sounds made by seismic blasting are one of the – so loud that they can travel 2,500 miles through water.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that at least 29 whales have died in New Jersey since 2016
The sound can trigger a survival response among whales and dolphins as if a predator were chasing them, according to a US military study in 2013.
This sends them in a chaotic direction, sometimes into boats or onto the shore.
‘It’s a behavioral impact. [Whales] get scared and run, and now they are running into ships, said Dean.
‘They didn’t run into ships previously.’
He explained that vessel traffic has increased in New Jersey, but with sonar blasting, ‘the poor things don’t have anywhere to go.’
‘That’s not right. That is animal cruelty to me,’ said Dean.
‘I blame NOOA and federal agencies for this. They have rules to follow to grant leases, but they do not look at how many projects are in one area.
‘They look at it project by project but don’t take a step back for a cumulative view.’
Two companies have leased the waters surrounding New Jersey: Dutch-owned Orsted and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind.
Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, co-owned by EDF Renewables and Shell New Energies US, has requested to set up 200 wind turbines off the coast of Atlantic City and Sea Girt.
Breuer, who released a new documentary called ‘Big Wind & The Incidental Take, a story about New Jersey, Green Energy & Dead Whales,’ spoke with New Jersey residents, activists and lawmakers about the link between whale deaths and offshore windfarms
Orsted pulled out of its two projects, but a map showed the layout of its turbines. According to Cape May’s official website, a study cited by Orsted itself indicates that an estimated 15 percent of tourists will not return once the windmills are installed
Mike Dean, a Mammoth County resident, told DailyMail.com: ‘When you get down to what they provide because they’re not clean green. ‘When you look at what goes into building them, and how long it takes for them to produce energy that covers their construction costs’
The company purchased a lease that covers 102,124 acres and is approximately 8.7 statute miles offshore of New Jersey at its closest point.
Orsted planned to develop the Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects for Southern New Jersey, which would erect 98 turbines 15 miles off the coast.
Construction was due to start this fall and was expected to be operational in 2025, but Orsted announced cancellations for both projects this month.
Orsted cited ‘macroeconomic factors, including high inflation, rising interest rates and supply chain constraints’ that led to the decision.
However, it is believed the two companies began blasting the seafloor with sonar as early as 2016 – the same time an unprecedented number of whales and dolphins began washing up on beaches, according to New Jersey Senator Mike Testa.
Dean also said companies are setting up compensation funds for local fishermen and businesses along the Jersey Shore.
According to Cape May’s official website, a study cited by Orsted indicates that an estimated 15 percent of tourists will not return once the windmills are installed.
Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Len Desiderio said in a statement: ‘We would like to see land-based offshore wind facilities and supply chain infrastructure built here in New Jersey since that would create good opportunities for trade workers and others.
‘But we cannot sit quietly by as hundreds of windmills are installed off our beaches as state and federal government agencies ignore our legitimate and serious concerns.’
Cape May County has a $7.4 Billion annual tourism economy. The website states that the negative impact could be a potential $1.11 billion loss in Cape May County across multiple sectors such as food service, hospitality, retail and rental housing.
‘Governor Murphy signed an additional billion dollars in subsidies to Orsted instead of passing it through the ratepayers,’ said Testa, featured in Breuer’s documentary.
‘Murphy, in his avarice to become first in green energy, should have called their bluff.’
DailyMail.com has contacted Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and Orsted for comment.
Companies have created models of how their turbines would look along the Jersey shore in several towns. Residents believe the fence of windmills could ruin their small businesses as tourists will not flock to the beaches
The documents, collected by the Save Right Whales Coalition, claim the non-profit organization dedicated to ocean research, Woods Hole Oceanographic, received a donation of $500,000 from Orsted ‘in or after 2018’
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) allegedly received $100,000 to $499,99 in 2019 and 2020 from Avangrid Renewables, also involved in an offshore wind project set for Massachusetts
The documents also claim that the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) received up to $9,000 from Vineyard Wind in 2020
‘My understanding is they drag a sonar behind their boat to map the ocean floor, and they’ve certainly put out a blast of sonar so they can erect these turbines,’ said Testa.
‘They’re saying this type of sonar is not causing any harm to marine life because it is used commonly by naval ships.
‘I’ve been paying attention since 2016, and [the marine animal deaths] are awful close to the time you started your sonar testing.’
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that at least 29 whales have died in New Jersey since 2016.
But a total of 209 have been found dead on beaches from Florida to Maine over the same period.
However, NOAA states that ‘there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales.’
‘We get this answer: ‘We are not sure what is causing this anomaly, but it has nothing to do with the sonar mapping,” said Testa.
Breuer likened the offshore wind energy projects to criminal activity.
‘Mike Dean has awareness details and facts about who got paid and how much they got paid,’ he said.
‘He was the one that brought the documents of like this person got paid this, and this guy did this, and during the night they passed this law so they can jump over this and this amendment.
‘This constitutional amendment got squashed because this particular politician pulled this while everyone was sleeping.
‘Just because you say you’re a corporation or a politician doesn’t mean you’re allowed to get away with criminal business.’
Suzanne Pelisson, a spokesperson with WHOI told DailyMail.com: ‘WHOI was awarded a contract for research, not a donation, from Orsted to demonstrate, evaluate and improve on methods to detect North Atlantic right whales from acoustic buoys, a field in which WHOI scientists and engineers have unique expertise.
‘The research funding from Orsted supported the deployment and operation of two acoustic monitoring buoys for a two-year period, which listened for and alerted mariners to the presence of whales in the area. The whale detection data were made publicly accessible in near real-time at robots4whales.whoi.edu.
‘Orsted had no control over the research process, the conclusions reached during the course of the research, nor the dissemination or communication of research results. WHOI’s research does not constitute endorsements of any company or industry.’
The remaining six dolphins were euthanized several hours later, adding to the more than three dozen cetaceans that have washed up dead in recent months.
DailyMail.com has contacted Woods Hole Oceanographic, NFWF and ELM for comment.
When asked why environmental groups are not sounding the alarm about the dead marine life, Dean responded: ‘They’re all receiving some sort of compensation.
‘Forget about offshore wind; how is the Autobahn Society not against windmills?
‘They kill millions of birds a year. They say nothing about it; [companies] are paying for their silence. There is so much money involved.
According to a 2022 press release from Save Right Wales, ‘Orsted is the official sponsor of the New Jersey Audubon Society’s fundraiser.’
‘These projects are funded with our money, after-tax money,’ said Dean.
‘They are taking that money and funding the policy goals to change our energy from traditional fossils to something out. They shouldn’t have full range on my after-tax cash flow.’
Dean told DailyMail.com that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has not formally approved the Atlantic Shores Project but released an environmental impact showing unavoidable harm.
DailyMail.com contacted BOEM, which refused to comment.
The environmental impact report predicts the turbines will be twice as tall as the Washington Monument and visible up to 40 miles off the shore.
‘Wind Turbines planned to be constructed off the New Jersey Coast will cause potential ‘unavoidable’ harm to New Jersey’s shore ecosystem, communities, and economy,’ the document reads.
The unavoidable harms listed include ‘irretrievable loss of jobs, marine mammal and bird mortality, major impacts to historic properties, accidental chemical spills, beach closures, compounded health issues of local environmental justice communities, navigational issues for military or national security vessels, among others.’
‘Increased risk of injury (TTS or PTS) to individuals due to underwater noise from pile-driving activities during construction,’ reads the report.
‘Increased risk of individual injury and mortality due to vessel strikes during construction and installation, O&M, and decommissioning.’
‘We have to say ‘what’s different in our oceans,’ said DeVoe.
‘You don’t have to be a marine biologist or a rocket scientist to know, you know, that having this many whales die in our little area is not normal, and people lived here their whole lives, 50 or 60 years, would see one dead whale.’
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This article by Stacy Liberatore was first published by The Daily Mail on 15 November 2023. Lead Image: Approximately 16 whales have died, and 72 were found stranded, along with 53 beached dolphins along the coast from December 2022 – but more than double the numbers since 2016.