“Trekkies” should recall this pithy exchange about endangered humpback whales from the 1986 feature film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, between Leonard Nimoy’s famous character and actor Catherine Hicks, who played “Dr. Taylor,” the cetologist.
“Mr. Spock” stated, To hunt a species to extinction is not logical; to which “Dr. Taylor” responded, Who ever said the human race was logical?
As the film’s story goes, humpback whales became extinct in the 21st century. The intrepid crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise (actually, they continued from Star Trek III in a commandeered Klingon starship), led by William Shatner’s “Captain James Kirk,” had to time travel from the 23rd century to the mid-1980s. The mission was to retrieve humpbacks to repopulate the species to save planet Earth from a powerful alien probe three centuries hence.
Instead of whale hunters, “renewable” energy is threatening a genuine, not fictional, diminution of humpbacks in the 21st century. Growing evidence suggests sonar waves from wind turbines planted in the ocean off the Atlantic coast are debilitating whales, dolphins and other marine life, leading to their premature demise.
David Wojick, Ph.D., who taught at Carnegie Mellon University and served in the U.S. Naval Research Lab, writes that sonar harassment is a clear and present danger to whales by “inducing things like deafness and deadly behavior,” including by whales incurring infection and fleeing into shipping lanes and fishing entanglements.
At this writing, 13 humpback whales in calendar year 2023 have washed ashore from Maine to Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which already is approaching last year’s total of 19.
Humpback whales are not the only species dying. Right whales also have washed ashore dead. More than two dozen whales since December have died in the mid-Atlantic region alone.
Since January 2016, when nine off-shore lease sales proceeded in the mid-Atlantic with more to follow, the NOAA acknowledged that “elevated humpback whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast” (emphasis mine), with an annual average death of nearly 30 humpbacks, almost triple the previous yearly norm.
No matter, as the Daily Caller recently reported, the Biden administration is stepping on the gas peddle to fund more off-shore wind.
As with the tabacco companies of yesteryear that disputed their product caused cancer, the Biden NOAA and climate-change cohorts are deniers, claiming there is “no evidence” off-shore wind sites are harming whales. Rather, the agency attributes some of whale fatalities to “pre-mortem vessel strike,” while conceding “more research is needed.”
Chris Oliver, the NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator, said, “protection and conservation of these endangered whales is especially important given the reduced rate of calving, the rapid decline in population in just a few years, and the evidence of a continued high rate of mortality.” So, last summer a working group was formed with his counterparts in Canada called the “Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team” to reduce whale “entanglements in trap/pot fisheries.”
A new team of bureaucrats to save the whales! Should we feel better? Mr. Oliver does. He wrote that he is “feeling positive” about the goals of “conserving and restoring this species.”
Except more whales are still dying unnecessarily since Mr. Oliver and the NOAA are missing the [whale] in the room by failing to acknowledge any culpability of offshore wind turbines. The rub is, if they did, it would be religious heresy in the Biden administration, so they obfuscate. Federal bureaucrats may have civil service protection, still they dare not risk climate-change apostasy by raising concerns about wind turbines mortally injuring whales. Such could lead to a transfer to the Aleutian Islands, court martial or the guillotine, figuratively speaking.
The NOAA is not the only entity in fatuous disbelief. Major media outlets and organizations that fanatically promote climate doom and its corresponding political agenda such as Greenpeace and the New York Times are circling the wagons. Yahoo News claimed that “scientists and environmental groups say there is no evidence linking the [off-shore wind turbines] to the deaths” of whales.
At the very least, there needs to be a moratorium on construction of off-shore wind turbines, which from a climate perspective alone are ineffective and a colossal waste, and now hazardous to the largest mammals on the planet. Indeed, U.S. Representatives Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and a dozen mayors in that state are demanding just that, along with a growing number of conservation groups, CFACT among them.
The salient question is, how can the federal government and professed environmentalists, which for decades bent over backwards to deny construction and development over snails, owls, salmon and sundry rodents, continue blithely with wind turbines that are demonstrably contributing to “elevated” whale deaths?
“Dr. Taylor,” the cetologist in Star Trek IV, has the response with a present-day twist: “Who ever said the [climate-change clergy] was logical?”
Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a D.C.-based not-for-profit that promotes free market and technological solutions to environment and energy challenges.