How to Stop Whale Deaths from Real Threats, Not Lies About Wind Energy

February 23, 2023

Protecting whales means busting fossil-fueled myths about wind energy — Right-wing disinformation is the real threat!

Greenpeace offices and activists around the world have worked to protect whales and the oceans they call home for decades. The threats to whales and all marine life have evolved and multiplied — ranging from commercial whaling and plastic pollution to fossil-fueled climate impacts such as ocean acidification, and even developing dangers like deep sea mining — over time and distance. All the while, the Greenpeace network and our allies, with the worldwide aid of supporters and volunteers, have steadfastly defended these amazing creatures and their ecosystems.

Recently a new insidious threat to whales — and all biodiversity — has our attention: Disinformation.

In response to a tragic spate of whale deaths along the East Coast, anti-science media such as FOX News, long beholden to fossil fuel corporations, has amplified the baseless claims made — with no supporting evidence — by a small group of local mayors that offshore wind farming is somehow to blame.

As noted by the marine mammal experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is zero evidence of a connection between the whale deaths and wind farming. Nevertheless, fear-mongering calls for a moratorium on wind power projects in the region benefit Big Oil’s fight against a just transition to renewable energy, while only pretending to care about local whale populations.

The perils of spreading misleading, false information may seem less immediate than a whaler’s harpoon. But climate disinformation moves us further away from the real solutions to the climate crisis that all living creatures so desperately need.

To debunk the dangerous disinformation distracting from the true dangers facing whale populations in this region of the Atlantic Ocean, we’ve consulted two-longtime oceans experts: Greenpeace USA’s Oceans Campaigns Director John Hocevar and Greenpeace USA’s Senior Oceans Campaigner Arlo Hemphill.

Let’s set the record straight:

Is there any evidence connecting recent whale deaths to offshore wind farming?

“There has been a lot of talk about wind turbines and whale deaths, but there is no evidence whatsoever connecting the two. Meanwhile, the oceans face more threats now than at any time in history,” said Hemphill.

How did wind power even end up in the conversation?

“It’s just a cynical disinformation campaign,” said Hocevar. “It doesn’t seem to worry them that it’s not based in any kind of evidence.”

What are actual experts focusing on?

“While the climate deniers and the right-wing pundits are tilting at windmills,” Hocevar said, “most of us are focused on the real threats to whales: climate change, entanglement with fishing gear, ship strikes and plastic pollution.”

What can we learn from previous whale deaths in the region? `

The number of humpbacks washing up in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland recently is cause for alarm. This follows the discovery of over 170 dead whales that have washed ashore on the US East Coast since 2016,” said Hemphill. “Of the portion of those on which a post-mortem was conducted, a large percentage showed signs of human interaction, including boat strikes and fishing net entanglements. In these latest cases, it’s too early to say what is responsible for all of these deaths, but we know that plastic garbage, ship strikes, ocean noise, entanglement and drowning in fishing gear are among the most common causes of whale mortality. The causes of the deaths that have been verified so far this year are ship strikes and fishing gear.”

What can we do in order to protect whales from real threats?

“There is a lot at stake, and we need answers to ensure we are doing what’s best for people and the planet. At this time, due to the lack of evidence suggesting harm from offshore wind development, Greenpeace’s position remains that the best way to protect whales is to create ocean sanctuaries, eliminate single-use plastics at the source, and stop our dependency on oil and gas. The current negotiations for a Global Ocean Treaty and the upcoming ones for a Global Plastics Treaty are important opportunities that we should seize to make progress in these areas,” said Hemphill.

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