Dead whale on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island is first of the year, stranding group says

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A dead humpback whale that washed ashore on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island on Thursday was the first such death in the state this year, according to a marine mammal rescue group.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center said it received a call at 6:45 a.m. reporting a dead humpback whale in the surf in Long Beach Township. It said the animal was a young male 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) long, but did not release further information, including whether there were any outward signs of injury or illness.

Sheila Dean, director of the center, said a necropsy was being performed on the whale Thursday evening.

The center’s web site said the state’s first whale death of the year follows 14 whale deaths in New Jersey during 2023.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration did not respond to a request for information on the whale death and similar fatalities in recent months along the U.S. East Coast.

It drew renewed outcries from opponents of offshore wind, who believe that site preparation work for oceanic wind farms is harming or even killing whales — a claim that numerous scientific agencies say is not true.

The group Protect Our Coast NJ said it is “gravely alarmed” by the whale deaths, and continued to voice skepticism of official scientific pronouncements.

“We don’t know whether the offshore wind companies blasting the waters with sonar sparkers and seismic devices could be impairing the communication patterns of these marine mammals,” said Robin Shaffer, president of the group. “But we’re skeptical about the statements that are all too often put out by scientists in the immediate aftermath of these deaths that they were caused by ship strikes or entanglements with fishing gear.”

Shaffer added: “Isn’t it at least possible that there is some other factor causing disorientation, and that the ship strikes and entanglements are a secondary factor?”

Agencies including the U.S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Marine Mammal Commission, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection all say there is no evidence linking whale deaths to offshore wind preparation.

The American Clean Power Association took note of that and said the industry uses many procedures to avoid harming sea creatures.

“To protect marine life, all stages of offshore wind development are subject to rigorous regulation and monitoring requirements, using measures such as mandatory vessel speed restrictions, vessel strike avoidance measures, constant visual and acoustic monitoring, seasonal restrictions, sound reduction technology and other mitigation,” spokesman Jason Ryan said.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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