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Wind and the Whale

PHOTO: As Mid-Atlantic states develop wind energy, there are concerns about the protection of the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA.GOV
PHOTO: As Mid-Atlantic states develop wind energy, there are concerns about the protection of the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA.GOV
May 24, 2013

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – This is a story about wind and the whale.

Now that the Maryland General Assembly has approved legislation to encourage development of a wind farm off the state's coast, there are concerns about what will happen to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

Justin Allegro, who manages the National Wildlife Federation’s Renewable Energy and Wildlife Program, says offshore wind development must include protections for the whales.

"The challenge is, of course, that they do migrate right through the areas that have been identified particularly in the mid-Atlantic for wind development offshore," he explains.

Allegro says leading wind power developers agreed last year to help protect the right whale primarily by reducing sound impacts during wind power exploration, but he wants the protections extended during turbine construction as well.

He adds the National Wildlife Federation heartily endorses wind power as a way to stem the effects of climate change, and he hopes energy companies voluntarily get on board with protecting the right whale in the early stages of wind energy development.

He warns there are just a few hundred whales left, and every one is critical to the species’ survival.

"That's the sort of seriousness associated with it,” he says. “You get down to the individual – everyone that's lost is a potential doom for the species."

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act last month, but there are still significant financial and bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared before the first turbines are built off the coast of Ocean City.


Alison Burns, Public News Service - MD