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Takes - Government Authorized Harming of Whales

In the world of offshore wind projects "takes" refer to instances where activities associated with the development, construction, or operation of wind turbines result in the harm, harassment, or death of marine wildlife. This term is often used in regulatory and environmental policy documents, such as the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and in the Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) that government agencies give to Offshore Wind companies. With the advent of the offshore wind farm projects along our shore, the public has been enlightened about the concept of takes.

Yes, Virginia, our government gives permission for offshore wind companies to harm or kill marine life.

Offshore wind industrial projects along our shore are said to be beneficial to our globe because they are described as green and renewable and overall a benefit to climate control. However, the public has become increasingly more aware and concerned about their destructive impact on marine life and the ocean ecosystem. This is primarily due to a rise in whale and dolphin deaths that has been proven to be directly concurrent with the wind project activities offshore. (See for data)

In environmental documents "takes"are categorized as Class A takes and Class B takes.  Both allow harassment of marine animals; Class B takes allow the disruption of critical behaviors such as feeding or mating while Class A takes allow direct injury or death to marine animals.  In essence both allow injury or death because once marine animals’ critical behavior is affected they can lose their ability to hear, communicate and navigate, and these injuries can cause death by putting them in the path of ocean vessels for vessel strikes among other means.   

The Ethical and Environmental Concerns

The allowance of takes by government agencies is a significant ethical and environmental concern. It's problematic because it represents a compromise, allowing some level of harm or even death to marine animals and serious disruption of ocean ecosystems in exchange for the swift advancement of the offshore wind projects. This is particularly concerning when marine populations that are endangered species such as the Right Whale, the Fin whale, the Sei whale and the Sperm whale are nonetheless included in the list of authorized “takes”.   For the Atlantic Shores project alone the authorized takes for just these three endangered whales totals 13.  The overall total for all types of whales along the east coast of NY/NJ is 62, if dolphins, porpoises and seals are included the total authorized takes are 4,170.  That total is only for the year of June 2023 to June 2024.  Imagine the scope of these permissions across all the dozens of offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Coast encompassing Maine to the Carolinas since 2016.  Will any endangered species be left? Will the ocean still be able to do its part in regulating the earth’s climate? There is an interesting documentary produced by none other than Michael Moore called “Planet of the Humans”  It refers in part to this very dynamic taking place in our world today. 

To Save the Planet Don’t Destroy the Ocean 

Protesting against takes in offshore wind projects is not necessarily an opposition to renewable energy but it is a call for a more responsible approach.  Advocates such as groups that cry ‘save the whales’ argue that advancement of these projects should not come at the cost of marine life and ocean ecosystems.  The ocean makes up 71% of our planet and plays a significant role in providing stability to the earth’s climate system.  Those who protest wisely say “To Save the Planet Don’t Destroy the Ocean”.

There is a pressing need for a pause in offshore wind plans for more thorough environmental assessments.  The multitude of citizen groups’ protests and the array of lawsuits that have been filed in NJ and other coastal states call for a moratorium on the incredibly fast paced (some call it reckless) implementation of offshore wind projects.  They request that research be conducted initially before proceeding to lease the ocean's acreage, survey the seabed using sonar, and eventually install 237 turbines (specific to the Atlantic Shores project), each weighing several hundred tons, into the ocean floor. They advocate for small pilot projects to gather data on the impact of these developments on marine life, ocean ecosystems, and the broader environment affecting humans. Only then should a large scale wind energy project be designed and approved to truly benefit the environment vs those that “take” from and further harm to our world. 

To date lawsuits linger and citizens have received no response to their pleas to government authorities other than willful blindness. Meanwhile the leases to mostly foreign companies and US oil companies for more huge swaths of our ocean acreage continue to roll out.

Jean Sault Birdsall

April 16, 2024


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