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Pause requested in the preparation of the wind farm ocean after the 7th dead whale

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BRIGANTINE, NJ (AP) — Local, state and federal lawmakers on Friday called for a temporary pause in ocean floor preparation work for offshore wind farms in New Jersey and New York after another whale died. ran aground in the area.

The calls came as most environmental groups in New Jersey warned of the link between offshore wind work and whale deaths, calling such associations “unsubstantiated and premature.”

This is the seventh death in just over a month. The spate of deaths prompted an environmental group and some citizen groups opposed to offshore wind to call on President Biden earlier this week for a federal inquest into the deaths.

The latest death on Thursday was that of a 20- to 25-foot-long (6 to 7.6-meter-long) humpback whale. Her remains washed up in Brigantine, just north of Atlantic City, which itself has seen two dead whales on its beaches in recent weeks.

There was no immediate indication of what caused the latest death. The Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center said it and several other groups were drawing up plans Friday for a post-mortem examination of the whale’s remains before the animal’s carcass is disposed of, most likely by burial on the beach.

“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,” the state senator said. New Jersey, Vince Polistina, a Republican who represents the area. “Work related to offshore wind projects is the main difference in our waters, and it’s hard to believe that the death of (seven) whales on our beaches is just a coincidence.”

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection referred a request for comment to the governor’s office, which did not respond Friday.

Earlier in the week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that to date no humpback whales – the species responsible for most recent whale deaths in New Jersey and New York – have been killed. due to offshore wind activities. .

Orsted, the Danish wind energy developer responsible for building two of three offshore wind projects approved so far in waters off New Jersey, said its current work off the New Jersey coast does not involve the use of sounds or other actions likely to disturb the whales.

He did not specify the type of work he currently does. The company did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Environmental group Clean Ocean Action said such on-site work typically involves exploring the ocean floor using focused pulses of low-frequency sound in the same frequency that whales hear and communicate, which could potentially cause harm. or disorient animals.

Brigantine Mayor Vince Sera joined the call for a temporary halt to offshore wind site preparation, as did U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew, a Republican congressman representing southern New Jersey.

At a Monday press conference in Atlantic City, groups calling on Biden to investigate the deaths said offshore wind developers have sought permission to harass or harm up to 157,000 marine mammals off the two states. .

NOAA said 11 of these applications are active in the region but involve non-serious injury or harassment of marine animals, not killing them.

“NOAA Fisheries has not authorized, or offered to authorize, death or serious injury for any wind-related action,” agency spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said.

Most of New Jersey’s major environmental groups said this week they support offshore wind power.

“The climate crisis demands that we rapidly expand renewable energy, and offshore wind is critically important to New Jersey achieving the state’s economic development and environmental justice goals,” the groups said in a statement.

Groups include Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, the Sierra Club, New Jersey Audubon, NY/NJ Baykeeper and others.

“Blaming offshore wind projects on whale mortality without evidence is not only irresponsible, but overshadows the very real threats of climate change, plastic pollution and unsustainable fisheries management practices to these animals,” Anjuli said. Ramos-Busot, manager of the Sierra Club in New Jersey.

“We need to base our decision-making on science and data, not emotion or assumptions,” added Allison McLeod, director of policy for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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