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Report finds marine mammals are being exposed to much louder noise levels than NOAA has stated which could be the cause for whale deaths

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Atlantic City NJ, An investigation into recent whale deaths in the Atlantic has found that the noise produced by offshore wind sonar activities is much louder than NOAA Fisheries’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has reported. Consequently, the setback distances adopted by NMFS to protect ocean life from the noise are too short and place whales and other marine mammals at a high risk of encountering harmful levels.

The Save Right Whales Coalition (SRWC), a group of long-time environmental activists dedicated to protecting the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale from the industrialization of its ocean habitat, issued this letter to NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad exposing the problem. According to the letter, “inadequate mitigations during a sonar survey could result in marine mammals experiencing sound levels that may injure or kill.” Since the only mitigation for sonar noise is distance, the shortened distances enforced by NMFS have “rendered any expected mitigations useless.”

SRWC’s finding is supported by a sound study conducted by Rand Acoustics, LLC, a leading acoustics firm in Maine. Earlier this year, Rand captured actual high decibel noise levels at a wind survey site approximately 43 nautical miles east of Barnegat Light, NJ. Rand found that the frequency and sound power levels he recorded did not match the equipment NMFS and the project sponsor said would be used. Rand’s data show the noise emitted from the sonar was much louder. This finding prompted a comprehensive review of the incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) issued by NMFS which revealed a regular pattern of NMFS applying mitigations based on quieter sonar devices than those actually in use.

“In our review, we found that NMFS simply accepted the sonar sound levels provided by the wind developers without independently validating these levels,” said Lisa Linowes, a co-founder of SRWC. She warned that all mitigations relating to sonar noise in the IHAs are predicated on the loudness of the sonar devices. Underestimating the actual noise level of sonar used by survey boats would lead to the specification of shorter ‘safe’ distances from marine mammals than were necessary for their protection. The setback distances also play a key role in calculating the number of marine mammal ‘takes’ NMFS authorized for the sonar activity. “Had NMFS applied the correct sonar sound levels when issuing the IHAs, the number of takes would have been materially greater,” Linowes said.

This finding suggests that there has been a complete breakdown in the system designed to protect marine wildlife and protect the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. SRWC has requested emergency action by NMFS and BOEM to address this matter beginning with the immediate revocation of IHAs now active.

The SRWC letter sent to NOAA can be found at this link.

The investigations of SRWC and Rand Acoustics, LLC are featured in the powerful new documentary released by Michael Shellenberger’s PUBLIC titled Thrown to the WindThe film can be viewed at this link.

The Save Right Whales Coalition is comprised of environmental and community organizations, scientists, and conservationists working to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and other marine life from the industrialization of our ocean habitat through large-scale offshore wind energy development across the eastern seaboard. For more information or to get involved, visit

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  1. All offshore wind projects should be halted in NJ and on the East coast.

    The political nature of these efforts have caused biased impact reports. These projects will forever impact the visual horizon but more importantly they won’t produce reliable energy, will not have meaningful impact on climate change, will cause much higher energy prices (sending $ to non-US companies) and will cause significant harm to the ocean and ocean life.

    Offshore wind needs to be halted.

  2. Don’t stop them because they are detrimental to humans…
    Stop them because they are detrimental to whales.

  3. Wind and solar are the future. So many don’t understand and just cling to the past. Magically wanting the world to be the way it was when they were children.

    1. Wind and solar may have a place, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the biodiverse ocean environment. What good is a “solution” that causes more harm than good?

      The best energy source is nuclear. Clean, safe, reliable and affordable.

      In 20 years, we’ll look at these decaying monstrosities in the ocean and wonder why no one stepped up to stop the destruction.

      I encourage you to do some deep research on offshore wind – BEYOND the agencies that have literally been funded by offshore wind giants – to understand the impact and costs. It’s bad news all around.

  4. Follow the science as they boldly proclaimed. Sonar surveys when used by the Navy or by oil exploration is very bad but when used to save the planet with wind farms very good. All the science points that however or for whatever purpose such invasive sonic probing in the sea does indeed is detrimental to the navigation and communication of not only whales but all manner of sea life.

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