Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has been silent on the recent surge in whale deaths along the coastlines of his home state New Jersey and a handful of other East Coast states despite his previous advocacy for whale protections.
Booker’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment from Fox News Digital and the senator has refrained from issuing any public statements about the increasing number of dead whales. Wildlife groups, local officials and federal lawmakers, including New Jersey congressmen, have called for an immediate moratorium on offshore wind power development in light of the recent phenomenon.
“Over the course of the past several months, there have been repeated instances of dead whales washing up on New Jersey’s shoreline, and the proximity of nearby offshore wind development has raised concerns that ongoing activity on these projects may be contributing to whale fatalities,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who represents a district that stretches along New Jersey’s eastern coastline, wrote to federal officials Tuesday.
“The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the Jersey Shore’s environmental viability, and any projects that may affect not only whales, but the broader marine ecosystem and the economy it sustains, must be comprehensively reviewed before allowed to proceed,” he continued.
In addition to Smith, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., who represents another coastline district that includes Atlantic City, New Jersey, has also called for a moratorium on offshore wind projects until a thorough investigation is conducted. Led by Clean Ocean Action, a coalition of local conservation organizations has also joined in on the calls for a moratorium.
And 12 mayors representing coastal communities in the state have issued similar calls. The mayors penned a letter earlier this week to officials and lawmakers including Booker demanding a pause on offshore development.
While Booker, who has repeatedly advocated for renewable energy development, hasn’t weighed in on the issue, one of his top legislative priorities over the last year has been pushing the Right Whale Coexistence Act, a bill he authored that would establish protections for the North Atlantic right whale species. A modified version of the legislation was ultimately included in the $1.7 trillion omnibus package Congress passed in late December, a move which Booker cheered at the time.
“I’m proud to introduce this bicameral legislation that will fund a collaborative and comprehensive approach between the public and private sectors to help protect this highly endangered and iconic species,” Booker said after introducing the bill in February 2022.
Booker has also previously called for an end to seismic testing and offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean to protect right whales, humpback whales and other marine life.
Since December, at least 10 dead humpback and sperm whales have been discovered on beaches across four eastern states. Five of the whales have been found in New Jersey.
In response to the uptick in whale deaths and calls to pause offshore wind development, federal officials held a press briefing on Jan. 18 during which they downplayed the impact of offshore wind on whales. The officials said they were studying the cause of deaths for the whales recently discovered, but that no whale mortality has been attributed to offshore wind activities yet.
“NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to minimizing risks to protected resources, habitats, and managed fisheries throughout the life cycle of offshore wind energy projects,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Lauren Gaches told reporters.
However, Save Long Beach Island, a local group opposed to offshore wind, recently published a report identifying at least six vessels affiliated with offshore wind projects that were operating off the coast of New Jersey as of Jan. 23 and conducting geotechnical surveys that could disrupt whales.
The Biden administration and states like New Jersey continue to push for aggressive clean energy development including offshore wind projects as part of their climate agenda.
In June, President Biden argued that offshore wind would create jobs and power millions of homes in the future. The Department of Interior has expanded plans for offshore lease sales for wind development along the nation’s eastern and western coastlines and in the Gulf of Mexico.
There are currently four offshore wind projects in federal waters off the coast of New Jersey and another three projects being constructed off the coast of New York in federal waters, according to federal data.