Unexplained Deaths of Humpback Whales
A recent string of humpback whale deaths has raised concerns among conservationists and lawmakers. The causes of death remain unknown as examination results are pending. The first incident occurred on Assateague Island National Seashore, followed by another discovery on the same beach. The National Park Service stated that there were no evident signs to determine the cause of death.
Offshore Wind Development Under Scrutiny
The series of whale deaths comes at a time when developers are rushing to construct Maryland’s first offshore wind energy projects. US Wind, a Baltimore wind energy firm, has plans for the MarWin project and the Momentum Wind project. These projects, set to generate electricity in 2025 and 2026 respectively, will be located just northeast of Assateague Island National Seashore, where the whale deaths occurred.
Lawmakers Call for Investigation
Concerned about the potential connection between offshore wind development and the whale deaths, Representative Andy Harris of Maryland has requested transparency in the necropsy results. He believes that offshore wind and sonar activity could be contributing factors. Harris and other lawmakers from coastal communities in Maine, New Jersey, and New York have been advocating for a pause on offshore wind development until its impact on marine life can be thoroughly assessed.
Calls for Independent Investigation
Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey has asked for an independent investigation into the impacts of offshore wind development. The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency overseeing government operations, has agreed to conduct the investigation. Smith emphasized the need to understand the potential consequences of offshore wind projects on the marine environment and tourism-driven economies before it’s too late.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has downplayed concerns over wind development causing whale deaths. They reiterated that a mortality event had been declared for humpback whales and Atlantic right whales years ago. However, Harris and other lawmakers argue that further research is necessary to rule out any potential link between offshore wind development and the recent increase in whale deaths.
Despite the conflicting views, the investigation by the Government Accountability Office will shed light on the impacts of offshore wind development and help address the concerns raised by lawmakers and conservationists.