Is Dominion Energy’s Offshore Wind Project a real threat to the viability of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale?
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered large whale species; the latest preliminary estimate suggests there are fewer than 350 remaining. Two other species of right whales exist: the North Pacific right whale, which is found in the North Pacific Ocean, and the Southern right whale, which is found in the southern hemisphere. Right whales are baleen whales, feeding on copepods (tiny crustaceans) by straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates, which act like a sieve.
The offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy may pose a serious threat to the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale population. Many of the OSWs are directly in the migratory path of the whales, which generally stay within 30 miles of the coast.
The east coast is already a super highway for shipping traffic. More whales are killed by ship strikes than by any other cause. The problem is that these OSWs are going to force whale to travel closer, and into these shipping lanes, which will lead to more strikes, and more deaths. The proposed Virginia/Dominion OSW project will be near 800 square miles, and will be a serious distraction to the whale’s migratory routes.
Right whales produce a variety of low frequency sounds, and the calling repertoires between the three species are considered to be similar. Moans, groans, belches, and pulses have most of their acoustic energy below 500 Hz. Some vocalizations will occasionally reach up to 4 kHz. One typical right whale vocalization used to communicate with other right whales is the “up call”.
The noise created by these giant wind farms is also a concern. Will it interupt normal whale communications, and cause confusion as they migrate south? Will the noise and communication disruption be a problem the baby whales?
Whenever the topic of OSW comes up, the only thing that appears to matter is money. Given the giant push by the Biden Administration to build more wind farms, the money issue should not come as a surpise.
Litigation, and forcing agencies like NOAA to walk the walk when it comes to the Endangered Species Act is the best way forward.