By MADDY VITALE
A seventh dead whale has washed up in a little over a month, this time in Brigantine, prompting lawmakers to join some environmentalists in seeking a halt to offshore wind farm activity until they know why the whales are dying.
On Thursday at 4:50 p.m., the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) received a call for a dead humpback whale on the North End beach of Brigantine. The center could not take photos until Friday due to the incoming tide Thursday night and the low light, the center said.
According to the MMSC, when staff arrived they discovered a whale carcass upside down in the surf.
“Based on a preliminary visual assessment by MMSC staff, the whale appears to be between 20 and 25 feet long, indicating it is likely a sub-adult,” the center said in a post on its Facebook page on Friday. “NOAA Fisheries and our stranding network partners MMSC, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, Mystic Aquarium, and MERR Institute, are developing a plan to conduct an examination that may help determine a cause of death.”
The center noted that it may take a while before they know for certain – if at all – what caused the death of the seventh whale.
“As with all large whales, our samples are sent to pathologists and other researchers who are tasked with investigating whale mortalities,” the post reads. “These results can take several months to come back before a cause of death can be determined, if at all.”
The whale was located in a natural area where recent beach erosion and the predicted tide cycle makes it “hazardous to access,” the center warned.
Environmental groups called for a federal investigation into the whale deaths during a news conference Monday in Atlantic City on the beach where a female humpback whale was discovered. It was the second whale to wash up on the beach in Atlantic City within two weeks.
The environmentalists from Clean Ocean Action and Protect Our Coast NJ said in the conference that they believe the whales may be dying due to sonar mapping related to proposed offshore wind energy farms.
The whales, predominantly juveniles, have washed up in a little over a month on beaches from Cape May to Montauk Point, N.Y., including two in Atlantic City, one in Strathmere and now another in Brigantine.
U.S. Congressman Jeff Van Drew, whose district includes the shore communities of Atlantic and Cape May counties, issued a statement Friday asking for all offshore wind activity to stop, “following an unprecedented number of whales that have washed ashore in the New Jersey/New York area over the past month.”
“Since offshore wind projects were being proposed by Governor Murphy to be built off the coast of New Jersey, I have been adamantly opposed to any activity moving forward until research disclosed the impacts these projects would have on our environment and the impacts on the fishing industry,” Van Drew said.
He continued, “Ocean life is being put at risk as our Governor and President force through their Green New Deal policies, without giving full consideration to their real-world impacts. We have seen a complete lack of transparency from New Jersey’s leaders, as well as D.C. politicians who are ramming through these projects in order to push their climate agenda.”
He said once committees for the 118th Congress are finalized, he will be calling for congressional investigations into the matter.
“I demand that all offshore wind activity be halted until it is properly determined what the effects of these activities are having on our marine life,” said Van Drew, a Republican.
Brigantine Mayor Vince Sera also issued a statement in response to the dead whales that said, “We are heartbroken over the latest whale to wash ashore this morning in Brigantine.”
Like Van Drew and environmentalists in the recent news conference, Sera is seeking a full investigation into the deaths.
“We call on local, state and federal authorities to conduct a full investigation as to why these magnificent creatures are suddenly dying in high numbers across the same areas where offshore wind development projects are getting underway,” he said.
Sera also wants an “immediate stop of all work related to offshore wind activity until necropsy results can be obtained and studied so we can all understand the cause of these sad deaths and how to prevent future losses.”
State Sen. Vince Polistina, a Republican representing Atlantic County, also called for a stop to offshore wind development until there is a determination about what caused the whale deaths.
“We should suspend all work related to offshore wind development until we can determine the cause of death of these whales, some of which are endangered,” Polistina stated. “The work related to offshore wind projects is the primary difference in our waters, and it’s hard to believe that the death of six whales on our beaches is just a coincidence.”
NOAA Fisheries is urging the public to maintain a safe distance from the Brigantine whale and to report all stranded marine mammals and sea turtles to NOAA’s marine mammal and sea turtle stranding hotline at 866-755-6622.