Another whale found dead at Assateague Island; offshore wind projects causing concern

Maryland state officials discovered a deceased whale off the state's Atlantic coast last week, marking the second beached whale carcass discovered in the area in three weeks.

Officers with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Natural Resources Police discovered the carcass of an adult male humpback whale on the north end of Assateague Island National Seashore on Wednesday, the DNR confirmed to Fox News Digital. National Park Service staff moved the carcass, and on Friday, a necropsy was conducted by the DNR Stranding Response Program and National Aquarium.

"A definitive cause of death was unable to be determined during the examination and samples are being shipped for diagnostic analysis," DNR spokesperson Gregg Bortz told Fox News Digital on Monday.

However, the string of whale deaths comes as developers race to construct Maryland's first offshore wind projects. Baltimore wind energy firm US Wind is developing two projects, the 300-megawatt MarWin project and the 800-megawatt Momentum Wind project, which are slated to begin generating electricity in 2025 and 2026, respectively. 

Those two projects will be constructed 20 miles off the coast of Maryland on an Atlantic Ocean site located just northeast of Assateague Island National Seashore.

"In response to the news of another whale death on Assateague Island, I am calling for a transparent release of the necropsy results to determine if offshore wind and sonar activity contributed to the cause of death," Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., told Fox News Digital in a statement.

Over the last 12 months, Harris, who represents Maryland's Atlantic coastline communities, and other House lawmakers representing coastline communities in Maine, New Jersey and New York, have taken aim at the green energy industry in response to rising whale deaths. They have called for a pause on offshore wind development until it could be ruled out as a cause of the deaths.

Last month, Harris hosted a public hearing, during which experts testified about the dangers wind development poses for marine wildlife and called for an end to offshore industrialization in Maryland.

Additionally, the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan agency tasked with conducting oversight of government operations, said it would investigate the impacts of offshore wind development after Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., requested a probe into the matter.

"This aggressive, independent investigation into the ocean-altering impacts of the 3,400 offshore wind turbines slated for the Jersey Shore will help address the wide-ranging questions and concerns that the Biden Administration and Governor [Phil] Murphy continue to dismiss as they plow full steam ahead with this unprecedented offshore wind industrialization of our shore," Smith said at the time.

"It is absolutely critical that New Jersey residents understand all the impacts of these offshore wind projects — which will permanently transform our marine environment and seascape and could put our tourism-drive economy at grave risk — before it’s too late," Smith continued.

However, federal officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration downplayed concerns over wind development causing whale deaths, reiterating that an unusual mortality event along the East Coast had been declared for both the humpback whale and Atlantic right whale species years ago. 

In 2023, 37 humpback whales were discovered dead along the East Coast, the highest annual number reported since the mortality event was declared in 2017, according to federal data. 

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