Don’t blame offshore wind for whale deaths

February 14, 2023

Several recent articles describe an issue with whales. As it turns out, some of the developers are doing preliminary site work on offshore wind. A number of folks suggest there’s a causal relationship between whale deaths and this initial work. A “causal relationship” occurs when a change in one variable causes a change in the other variable. Is that what’s happening here?

Let’s be clear at the outset that we need to be mindful of the devastation that climate change threatens to our entire world, including our ocean environment. Temperatures are rising, changing sea ice distribution and making it more difficult for zooplankton (food for many whales) to be found. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests this sea ice distribution issue leads to hunger and reproduction difficulties in the right whale. Other whale species also have trouble finding prey because of higher water temperatures. 

If Delaware were to initiate an offshore wind project, we’d be doing our bit to mitigate climate change, thereby improving the lot of not only whales, but other members of the wildlife kingdom as well. This is a causal relationship: reduce carbon emissions and climate change is slowed down. One variable (reduction of carbon emissions) causes another variable (climate change) to decrease.

Researchers find that whales have been in a fairly high state of stress since 2016, a long time before offshore wind development began in the area. The average number of annual humpback whale strandings between 2016 and 2020 was 29. Ironically, the average number of strandings for the past two years was 14.5. While this is a great improvement, with a 50% reduction in strandings, we cannot suggest that offshore wind preliminary work gets credit for this improvement; but neither should wind activities get blamed for impacts to these treasured mammals.

Paul Sieswerda, speaking for Gotham Whale, a research and advocacy group, says that with recent increases in numbers of whales off the coasts of New Jersey and New York because of an increase in food supply (menhaden), there will obviously be a proportionately greater number of whale strikes in this area of heavy ship cargo traffic. 

Ship strikes typically take place from vessels traveling 21 mph or more, a speed at which only large commercial ships travel, not offshore wind survey boats. A whopping 40% of maritime trade is the transportation of fossil fuels or chemicals made from fossil fuels. If you go to, you can see all the little red icons that represent tankers off the East Coast in real time. Reducing our use of fossil fuels will, quite appropriately, cut down on the number of tankers, reducing the ocean traffic that is a major source of trouble for whales.

It is terribly sad that whales are dying. Yet there seems no valid reason to blame offshore wind development. We should instead be wildly grateful that offshore wind offers Delawareans, and whales, a way to help clean up our act and make both air and water healthier … for all of us mammals.

For additional whale deaths/offshore wind information, check out this article by USA Today published Feb. 11:

Peggy Schultz
People for Offshore Wind Energy Resources
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