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Off-shore wind turbines aren’t killing whales | READER COMMENTARY

A dead whale was found on the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore. File. (Baltimore Sun handout).

Despite what a recent letter writer may claim, there is no evidence that wind turbines or any activity involved in surveying and planning for ocean wind farms has seriously harmed whales (”Off-shore wind farms pose a threat to whales,” Jan. 19). This is not according to me, it is according to Brian Hooker, leader of a biology team with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Office of Renewable Energy Programs.

Under federal regulations, vessels conducting offshore wind activities must meet numerous requirements designed to look for and avoid marine mammals including whales. One requirement is that there be observers on board whose sole job is to look out for marine mammals. One observer must be aboard during daylight hours and two at night using night-vision equipment. Surveying equipment used in offshore wind site preparation is different from that used in exploring for oil and gas in that the wind farm testing uses smaller, quieter equipment.

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Is there risk? Yes. However, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said they have been studying the phenomenon of humpback whales dying at elevated rates along the East Coast since January of 2016. During that period, 178 of the animals have washed ashore dead between Maine and Florida. Post-mortem examinations were able to be done on about half the animals and, of those, 40% showed evidence of “human interaction” such as entanglement with fishing gear or being struck by large vessels. In no case, has a whale been proven to have been killed by offshore wind activity.

We do still need to be vigilant here. But where are the calls to stop commercial fishing, cargo ships, removing the thousands of oil platforms and stopping fossil fuel exploration? Finally, whales are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change because these effects can be magnified toward the top of the food web and wind farms are one of top ways of mitigating this risk.

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— Dave Arndt, Baltimore

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