On the south coast of NSW, on the steps of Parliament House, on the thronged landscape of Facebook, a new war rages on. A new climate change war. A war concerning wind farms and whales.
Since the beginning of 2023, conservatives have joined forces to greatly exaggerate the impacts that offshore wind farms are having on the oceans’ whale populations. However, it’s only been since September that these lies have truly taken off.
This is thanks to the former US President Donald Trump. During a South Carolina election rally, Trump claimed that offshore wind turbines are somehow killing whales at an unprecedented rate.
Since then, this narrative has taken hold across the width and birth of Australia. Take for instance, Troy Radford, the NSW President of the Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fish Club. Radford has claimed that the loud noises that offshore wind farms produce scare whales into beaching themselves. He published this incorrect claim on a roadside Port Stephens billboard.
Likewise, the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, has also alleged that offshore wind farms will put whales and their calves at risk.
On October 24, Dutton stated, “There’s no environmental consideration of what these huge wind turbines, 260 to 280 metres from the water, will mean for that wildlife and for the environment.”
What’s more, even Facebook groups have gotten in on this action. In early November, a prominent Facebook group called No Offshore Wind Farm asserted that offshore wind turbines “could kill up to 400 whales per year.”
However, what we have here is a smorgasbord of misinformation. Despite what these actors are claiming, there are no scientific studies that state such claims are the truth.
Do Offshore Wind Farms Kill Whales? The Facts
According to all credible scientists and researchers, offshore wind farms do not kill whales or their calves. The sounds they admit don’t propel them to the beach themselves.
One person who has been highlighting such facts is Quentin Hanich, the Editor-in-Chief of a scientific journal called Marine Policy. For the past few weeks, Hanich has been debunking a myriad of whale misinfo that’s been published online.
“There is no science which demonstrates that wind farms have any significant impact on whales,” Hanich said.
“WWF, Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, Nature Conservancy, all the major conservation organisations, including those that are solely focused or very heavily focused on whales, all have in principle support for offshore wind, if it’s done in a way that can manage interactions. Those conservation agencies are saying that the biggest issues that whales face come from plastics and from a warming ocean, which has impacts on their food sources.”
Additionally, Hanich isn’t denying that offshore wind turbines cannot impact whales at all.
When offshore wind turbines are under construction, some marine life will dislike the noise and leave said regions. However, these impacts are negligible in comparison to the threat of the climate crisis.
These sentiments have been echoed by the likes of the Zoological Society of London’s Rob Deaville.
“There’s lots of evidence that when you’re putting the wind farms in place, it does generate a lot of percussive noise, and that can have an impact,” Deaville explained. “Particularly things like porpoises or dolphins, they may move from that area while you’re installing the wind farms… In some areas, they never come back. In some, they come back in larger numbers than before.”
Therefore, while wind farms aren’t the perfect housemates for whales, they are certainly better than the alternatives. One being where our oceans cook whales like soups.
Wollongong’s Wind Farm and the Dangers of Misinfo
Unfortunately, in Australia, the facts can only take you so far. The facts mean nothing if nobody believes them.
Off the coast of NSW’s Illawarra, a new wind farm has been proposed. On October 29, 1000 protested this proposal on Wollongong’s Flagstaff Hill. Many of the attendees were concerned for the humpback whales that migrate through this region.
Let’s just hope that these protesters know all the facts before they oppose this wind farm. Let’s just hope that they weren’t tricked by misinformation.