From Watts Up With That?
By Dr. Patrick Moore
Since 2016, when acoustic sonar surveys required for construction of 1,500 wind turbines began on the U.S. Atlantic coast, 174 Humpback whales have washed ashore dead. This represents a 400 percent increase in mortalities from previous years. And then there are the highly endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which less than 400 individuals exist today. They recovered somewhat after being hunted to near extinction in the 1930’s, but now they are thought to be declining.
Federal government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are authorizing the sonar surveys. Greenpeace, the organization I helped found in 1971, has sided with the wind turbines over the whales, stating there is no “proof” that sonar is involved in this tragedy. Here is a quote from a Greenpeace spokesperson:
“At this time, due to the lack of evidence suggesting harm from offshore wind development, Greenpeace’s position remains that the best way to protect whales is to create ocean sanctuaries, eliminate single-use plastics at the source, and stop our dependency on oil and gas.”
Perhaps it would be a good idea to put the “ocean sanctuaries” where the whales live.
It is a fact that mortalities among whales in this region are often caused by entanglement in fishnets and by vessel strikes. But a 400 percent increase in whale deaths, coincident with the sonar program, should cause environmentalists like Greenpeace to swing into action and spend some of their hundreds of millions on a thorough research program. Instead, they are doing nothing. Well, they do cruise around in their $30 million yacht which they call a “sailing vessel” even though there is an 1,850-horsepower diesel engine in the hold which provides the main propulsion.
It is understandable that federal agencies like NOAA would downplay the concern for the whales. The Biden administration is dead set on building all these contraptions even though they will be much more expensive and far less reliable than nuclear, hydroelectric, or fossil fuel generators.
Whales are acoustic species that use sonar to see the world around them. They have eyes for close-up recognition, but their sonar is how they navigate and speak to each other.
It is not only the sonar surveys that may pose a real problem for the whales. Depending on their size, each one of the 1,500 turbines will require a concrete base excavated into the ocean sediment up to 150 feet deep and 30-40 feet wide. This will clearly cause a huge amount of mud to be dispersed into the water column. Both these species of whales are of the baleen type. They are filter-feeders using their baleen to strain their food into their stomachs. The mud from these many excavations may interfere with their feeding and may also affect the species they depend on for food.
I sailed variously as navigator, first-mate and leader on all four Greenpeace campaigns to save the whales from 1975-1978. We went into the deep-sea Pacific for months at a time during the whaling season, sometimes 1,000 miles from land. We put ourselves in front of harpoons to protect the fleeing whales. When we arrived in San Francisco in early July 1975 with film footage of a harpoon going over the heads of our crewmembers in a small inflatable boat, and then into a Sperm Whale’s back, the images went around the world in a matter of hours. Greenpeace had arrived as a major player in the global environmental movement.
At the time we intervened in the Pacific whale slaughter, the Russian and Japanese whaling fleets together were killing about 30,000 whales annually. Many species – including blue whales, sei whales, fin whales and right whales – had been slaughtered to commercial extinction. Among the most commercially valuable whales, only the sperm whales, the largest toothed animals ever to exist on Earth, survived in large numbers. But they were certain to be all but wiped out if the hunts continued. The much smaller minke whales, which were never considered optimum by the big fleets, are still present in reasonable numbers.
In 1979, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned the hunting of all species – except minke whales – by factory ships and declared the Indian Ocean a whale sanctuary. In 1982, the IWC adopted an indefinite global moratorium on all commercial whaling. Except for the right whales of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, all whale species are either fully recovered or well along in recovery.
I left Greenpeace when they began to refer to humans as “the enemies of the Earth,” a bit too much like “original sin” for me. To top it off, my fellow directors, none of whom had any formal science education, decided we should campaign to “ban chlorine worldwide.” They nicknamed chlorine “The Devil’s Element,” conveniently dismissing that chlorine is the most important of all the 90-plus naturally occurring elements for public health and medicine. I guess this doesn’t count for those who don’t like humankind.
Today, Greenpeace executives work in cushy offices and sail around like a bunch of college kids on a summer cruise. By siding with machines over living, endangered whales they have betrayed their founders and everyone who really cares about the natural world. Now more than ever, I am glad I left them behind in 1986, after 15 years of service. When it had its priorities right, Greenpeace was made up of voluntary crusaders for peace and nature. It has become a big business focused on fundraising, a backroom racket peddling junk science.
This commentary was first published at Washington Times, February 14, 2023, and can be accessed here.
Patrick Moore, Ph.D., ecology, is a co-founder of Greenpeace and was a director of Greenpeace from 1971 – 1986. He is a director of the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia, and author of several books, including “Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom,” which debunks scare stories used to instill fear.
You must be logged in to post a comment.