Yet another humpback whale was discovered stranded on Long Island on Friday, adding to the growing number of beachings along the East Coast this year. This particular whale, measuring between 18 and 20 feet, was found by bystanders at Robert Moses State Park early in the morning. The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society had received reports of a floating whale carcass near Ocean Beach on Fire Island the previous night, which eventually washed ashore.
The exact cause of the whale’s death remains unknown, but the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society will investigate to determine the cause. Crews were dispatched to the beach to remove the carcass using a bulldozer. This incident marks the 17th recorded humpback whale death between Maine and Florida in the current year, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to declare it an “unusual mortality event.”
New Jersey and New York have been particularly affected, with seven humpback whales stranded in New Jersey and three in New York. Since December 1, there have been a total of 36 beached “large” whales, including four Minke whales, along the East Coast. Additionally, numerous dolphins have also been stranded.
The escalating number of beached whales has sparked a contentious debate among politicians and activist groups. Some attribute the deaths to the construction of offshore wind turbines, while others point to human interactions, such as vessel collisions. Despite the concerns, New York State Park Regional Director George “Chip” Gordon noted that whale beachings are not unprecedented in the area, although the current frequency may be slightly higher.
Critics, including Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, argue that sonar systems used by vessels surveying the ocean floor for wind turbine placement may harm marine mammals’ hearing, potentially leading to more whale deaths. Moore suggests that the high-intensity acoustic pulses could disorient whales, causing strandings, collisions, and entanglements in fishing gear.
Republican lawmakers in New Jersey have called for a 60-day moratorium on offshore wind farm development to investigate any potential links to the surge in whale carcasses. However, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy remains committed to offshore wind energy and has set a goal for New Jersey to generate 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035.
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