Groups seek probe of NY-NJ whale deaths amid wind power prep

As the stench of a dead whale hung in the air, environmentalists and opponents of offshore wind stood on a beach where the marine mammal lay buried Monday and called for a federal probe into a spate of whale deaths in New Jersey and New York.

Groups from the two states wrote President Joe Biden requesting a probe of the deaths of six whales that washed ashore over the last 33 days in areas being prepared for large-scale offshore wind farms. They also are asking for a halt to site work until the causes are determined.

Cindy Zipf, executive director of New Jersey-based Clean Ocean Action, called the rate of whale deaths in the two states unprecedented.

“Is it an omen?” she asked. “Is it an alarm? Never before have we had six whales wash up in 33 days.”

She said survey boats explore the ocean floor using focused pulses of low-frequency sound in the same frequency that whales hear and communicate, which could potentially harm or disorient the animals.

The news conference was held on the beach in Atlantic City atop the buried carcass of a whale that washed ashore over the weekend in front of the Boardwalk arena that used to house the Miss America competition. The stench from the decaying animal remained powerful, even through a heavy layer of sand.

A prominent marine mammal stranding expert said that while the cause of the deaths is unknown, it could be a simple function of a larger-than-normal number of whales in the area this winter, with the number of deaths rising proportionately.

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