Screenshot. Dead whale being removed from the NJ shore.

NJ - Whale deaths: Climate change and pollution kill whales, not wind

Everyone, Greenpeace included, is devastated by the uptick in whale deaths along the Eastern Seaboard and across the world. The loss of so many dolphins and whales, some of which are endangered species, is unacceptable and largely preventable.

But one thing is clear: the claim that offshore wind development is responsible for whale deaths is categorically false.  

Let’s start with the facts: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been tracking the uptick in whale strandings since 2016 and conducting autopsies. This was well before offshore wind development began off our coast and well before greedy politicians with corporate interests decided they wanted to capitalize on these deaths to advance their own agendas. In almost every single dead whale studied, there is evidence of interaction with humans, whether from ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, or bellies full of plastic. Not one showed evidence of being harmed by survey work for future windmills.

It’s easy to have an emotional connection with these majestic mammals; how could you not? However, to be truly effective in our advocacy for their protection, we must remain grounded in science and fact. Hysteria, driven by lies and misinformation campaigns funded by oil, coal and gas corporations with vested interests in preventing a clean energy transition, is not aligned with effective wildlife conservation.

Greenpeace has been a leader in protecting whales for the last 50 years, and our campaigning has led to a global prohibition on whaling respected by nearly every nation. And since the end of commercial whaling in 1986, we have seen the dramatic recovery of whale populations worldwide.

So, what is actually causing the surge in whale deaths? The real culprits are clear:

  • Ship strikes have been killing large numbers of whales off the East Coast for years. There are two main causes of the increased number of whales run over by ships today. First, some populations have been recovering while shipping has increased in these waters. At the same time, warming waters are causing some whales to move into shallower waters to feed. These factors set more vessels on a fatal collision course with whales and dolphins.
  • Entanglement in fishing nets and lines has also been killing far too many whales for far too long. As with ship strikes, these deaths appear to be increasing as some populations start to recover.
  • Plastic pollution is a relatively new and rapidly growing threat to whales. Many of the whales that have washed up dead on our shores have digestive systems clogged with plastic bags and other plastic debris. Even when this doesn’t kill them outright, the impact on their health can leave them too weak to avoid danger.

The simplest explanation is often the right one, and in this case, the simple truth is this: Whales are dying from the same causes we have seen for years.

Right-wing pundits claim that the sound waves caused by sonar scanning the seafloor are what is causing the whales to become disoriented and get hit or tangled in fishing gear is utter nonsense.

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