Former US President Donald Trump’s recent claims that wind turbines off the US coast are causing whales to die in unprecedented numbers are not substantiated by evidence.
During a rally in South Carolina, Trump suggested that wind turbines used for electricity generation were disturbing whales and leading to weekly whale strandings. While there have been concerns raised about whale deaths near the development of offshore wind farms along the US east coast, there is no evidence linking these wind turbines to whale deaths.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported 208 humpback whale strandings along the east coast since 2016, and 2023 has seen a particularly high number of humpback whale deaths. However, NOAA data attributes these deaths primarily to human interactions, such as whales getting entangled in fishing nets or being struck by vessels in their feeding areas.
Post-mortem examinations conducted by NOAA on about 90 dead humpback whales found no conclusive evidence linking their deaths to wind turbines. Other factors, including parasite-caused organ damage or starvation, were considered as possible causes of death in cases where human interaction was not identified as the cause.
Experts emphasize that the main threats to humpback whales are fishing-related activities and ship strikes, not wind farms. Moreover, regions with significant wind farm installations, such as the UK, have not seen a notable increase in whale strandings associated with wind farms.
While offshore wind farm development does involve surveying the ocean floor using acoustic waves, there is no direct evidence linking this activity to whale deaths. It is worth noting that the noise generated during wind farm installation can impact marine life like porpoises and dolphins, potentially causing them to temporarily relocate from the area. However, the long-term effects are variable, with some areas seeing a return of these marine species in larger numbers after wind farm installation.
In summary, there is no substantiated evidence supporting Donald Trump’s claim that offshore wind turbines are causing whale deaths. Existing data point to other human-related factors as the primary causes of whale strandings, such as fishing net entanglement and vessel collisions.