Whale Tales and Whale Facts

| April 7, 2023

By Juan Torres 

On Tuesday, April 4,  NYLCVEF hosted a webinar with the NY Offshore Wind Alliance and Citizens Campaign for the Environment on whale protection called Whale Tales and Whale Facts. Attendees heard from experts about threats to whales off NY’s coast and what we can do to protect these endangered species. 

The program included experts from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Atlantic Sea Conservation Society, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and was moderated by Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. She was joined by Julie Tighe, President of NYLCV & NYLCVEF; and by Fred Zalcman, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance. 

Esposito kicked off the event by emphasizing how much New Yorkers care about the whale population and how recent events have sparked an interest in learning more about whale conservation. She also highlighted research from Gotham Whale, a non-profit citizen-science organization that tracks whale populations around New York Harbor. 

That research indicated that there were sightings of over 260 whales (mostly juvenile Humpback Whales) in the New York City area in 2022, while a decade ago there were only five sightings. This is the result of a law that protects the Menhaden fish species, a big food-source for many whales. The growth in the whale population is also a result of removing ghost gear that is harmful to whales within New York waters. 

Speaker Meghan Rickard, a Marine Biologist with The Division of Marine Resources for The New York State DEC, spoke about how endangered large whale species found in New York are a priority for the state. She highlighted management plans that focus on whale surveys and whale monitoring for a variety of species. This follows the New York Ocean Action Plan which had a 3 year time-frame for baseline monitoring. 

The second speaker, Dr. Erica Staaterman, a PHD Scientist with BOEM, presented her research in bioacoustics and their effects on whales. Bioacoustics is the investigation of sound production, dispersion and reception in animals. She spoke about which sources of underwater sound are the most harmful to whales and noted that despite what some anti-offshore wind groups are contending, the sound created from offshore wind construction is less harmful than other sources of bioacoustics such as airguns and Navy sonar. 

The final speaker, Robert DiGiovanni, the Executive Director and Chief Scientist for the Atlantic Sea Conservation Society, has over 33 years of experience working in whale conservation and protection.  He spoke about how his organization has responded to whale strandings and deaths, and encouraged attendees to contact his organization if they come across a deceased or distressed whale. He spoke about the growing number of whales in and around New York waters due to successful legislation demanding safer fishing practices and protecting more marine species. As the number of whales increase,  DiGiovanni noted, whale deaths and strandings will also increase, unfortunately, but the major threats to the species can be traced back to ship strikes and unsafe fishing practices, not offshore wind.

If you missed our Whale Tales and Whale Facts webinar, you can watch the recording here


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