NOAA Ignores Lifeless Whales, Proposes One other Web site Survey Off New Jersey – Watts Up With That?
By David Wojick
“Damn the whales, full speed ahead” appears to be Biden’s NOAA offshore wind policy. They are now proposing to allow another site survey just 10 miles from Atlantic City. These investigations are the prime suspect for the recent wave of dead whales centered on New Jersey.
See proposal at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/03/30/2023-06594/takes-of-marine-mammals-incidental-to-specified-activities-taking-marine-mammals-incidental-Zu
The site is big because the offshore wind project is huge. Phase 1 has a whopping 1,500 MW, which means over 100 monster turbine towers. The study area covers approximately 1,500,000 acres or an incredible 2,300 square miles.
Ironically, the project is called Atlantic Shores, where all the dead whales wash up. In fact, this is basically an extension of a previous permit. NOAA is acting like nothing has changed and ignoring the horrific whale kill in New Jersey.
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is accepting public comment on this absurd proposal, see details below.
The superficial environmental impact assessment of the proposal is ridiculously simplistic. NMFS itself predicts that a great many marine mammals (supposedly protected by them) will be exposed to unsafe levels of survey noise. See https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/s3/2023-03/AtlanticShoresHRG_2023_Proposed_IHA_OPR1.pdf
NOAA forecasts the number of adverse impacts by type, but here are the staggering numbers by category:
Total = 4,190 marine mammals affected
Here is NOAA’s basic argument:
“….only level B nuisance is proposed for approval, which NMFS expects to be of lesser severity, mainly in the form of avoidance of the sound sources, which may result in temporary abandonment of the site during active use of the source, which can lead to a temporary disruption in foraging for some species. NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed activity will have any long-term or permanent impact as the sound source would be mobile and leave the area within a specified time for which the animals could return to the area.”
In short, these thousands of big beasts will get the hell out of their way and come home when the uprising is over, in about a year. Apparently, NMFS considers this massive forced resettlement to be harmless. Although hundreds of scientists are employed, they cannot imagine how it could be harmful.
Here are two obviously harmful possibilities among many.
Firstly, the site is deliberately located in an area with relatively little shipping traffic, surrounded by heavily frequented areas. This is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world. Forced relocation to more frequented areas will almost certainly increase the incidence of fatal shipping accidents.
Second, moving so many animals into areas already occupied by similar animals should greatly increase the population density for each species. But the food supply remains the same, which could lead to food shortages.
The treatment of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale is particularly egregious. NOAA says:
“…the size of the study area (5,868 km2) compared to the total migratory habitat for the North Atlantic right whale (BIA of 269,448 km2) is small, accounting for 2.11 percent of the total migratory corridor.”
Right whales migrate through the area twice a year, between the Georgia coast and New England, so the “corridor” is indeed large, but that’s irrelevant. Crucially, the study area is approximately 35 miles wide from east to west and nearly all migratory whales currently transit this space. Thus, the survey has the potential effect of blocking the migration, or at least seriously disrupting it by consuming nearly 100% of the disk space needed, not 2.11%.
Notwithstanding all of the above projected and potential impacts, NOAA maintains that this proposed permit is exempt from NEPA’s environmental impact assessment requirements. They specifically claim that “no serious injuries or fatalities are expected.”
You should anticipate something harder. NEPA requires an assessment when a breach is reasonably probable. Injury and death to thousands of supposedly protected marine mammals, including the critically endangered right whale, are certainly quite likely here.
More specifically, the Atlantic Shores Wind Project has yet to be approved and may never be. Highly disruptive site surveys should not be approved until the project is approved.
Here is the basic comment statement: “Comments should be directed to Jolie Harrison, Director of Permissions and Conservation, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Written comments should be emailed to ITP.Potlock@noaa.gov.
I suggest an email subject line: “Comment on Proposed Atlantic Shores IHA.” A simple objection is enough, but concrete arguments are always useful. Anyone can comment.
In the offshore wind attack, Biden’s National Marine Fisheries Service has lost sight of its mission to protect marine mammals.
Just say no to NOAA.
David Wojick, Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy.
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