By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
Renowned sand sculptor John Gowdy is in the process of creating a life-sized whale sculpture on the beach at Suffolk Avenue in Ventnor.
The Board of Commissioners Thursday, March 23, gave Gowdy permission to build the sculpture and allowed the Public Works Department to move sand for the creation that is meant to bring attention to the plight of the whales.
More than 29 whales have washed up on the East Coast shoreline since December, including nine in New Jersey. Last week, eight dolphins beached themselves in Sea Isle City and were euthanized.
On Friday, a badly decomposed pygmy sperm whale that had been dead for months washed ashore on the beach at 49th Street in Ocean City.
The flurry of mostly humpback whale and dolphin deaths has raised suspicions that sonar mapping of the seabed for a series of proposed offshore wind energy farms may be confusing the mammals and causing their deaths.
NOAA and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center have concluded that most of the humpback whale deaths were caused by vessel strikes.
“As of March 2023, no offshore wind-related construction activities have taken place in waters off the New Jersey coast, and DEP is aware of no credible evidence that offshore wind-related survey activities could cause whale mortality,” the state. Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement.
Numerous advocacy groups, some formed to address what they call the “transformative industrialization” of the ocean, have been speaking out against the creation of offshore wind farms.
Republican U.S. Congressman Jeff Van Drew (NJ-2nd) has introduced a resolution calling for a Congressional investigation of the potential impacts of offshore wind development that can mitigate negative environmental impacts on maritime resources, and an immediate moratorium on wind development.
On Thursday, March 30, Protect Our Coast NJ will meet at the Trenton State House Annex to demand Gov. Phil Murphy stop the project until the cause of whale deaths is determined. Keith Moore of Defend Brigantine Beach said they will deliver an online petition calling for the immediate halt of wind farm development that has been signed by nearly 500,000 people.
Gowdy said he is trying to bring light to the deaths of whales and dolphins “without pointing fingers” and the “ugliness of windmills on our horizon.”
“We need to come together in front of a whale carved in sand and talk about it,” he said.
Gowdy said he would like to hear from advocates on both sides of the issue, including those who support offshore wind development as a way to address the devastating effects of global warming.
“Even people who are pro-windmills are invited although some may feel like they won’t get a warm welcome,” he said.
The sculpture will be huge – 45 feet wide and 9 feet tall, he said. There will be a platform on top where advocates can speak.
Gowdy said he called his entertainer friend John Higbee to write a song about the whales. Higbee will perform his song, “Save the Whales,” at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 1. Speakers will follow and when they are through, Higbee will perform the song again.
Gowdy said he can use some help and is calling on the arts community to help build the sculpture between now and April 1. The raindate will be April 2.
The sand sculpture is located on the beach at Suffolk Avenue to the left of the new Ventnor Beach Patrol Headquarters.
Ventnor Mayor Lance Landgraf asked the community to support the event.
“The effort to put these offshore wind turbines should be put on hold until we find out what’s happened. It’s critical to our community and region, and we want to make sure we are doing the right thing,” Landgraf said.