A pod of dolphins that became stranded on a beach in Sea Isle City at the Jersey Shore
The pod of dolphins that became stranded on a beach in Sea Isle City at the Jersey Shore
Two dolphins have died and six others had to be euthanized by a veterinarian after their pod became beached on the shore of this Cape May County resort town on Tuesday, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.

"All eight dolphins have been transported to the NJ State Lab for immediate necropsies," the stranding center said in a Facebook post late Tuesday afternoon. "We share in the public's sorrow for these beautiful animals, and we hope that the necropsies will help us understand the reasoning for their stranding."

A spate of marine mammal deaths off the Jersey Shore since December has triggered what at times has been an intensely emotional debate over the cause.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection, which had been publicly quiet about the whale deaths, eventually said last Wednesday that it's "aware of no credible evidence that offshore wind-related survey activities could cause whale mortality."

"While DEP has no reason to conclude that whale mortality is attributable to offshore wind-related activities, DEP will continue to monitor," its statement said.

Nevertheless, a vocal number of Shore residents are convinced that the work being done offshore, which includes ocean floor sonar mapping, is responsible for the deaths.

Last week, hundreds of people filled the Wildwoods Convention Center and hundreds more waited outside for what was billed as a special "investigative" congressional hearing to explore issues surrounding "Off-Shore Wind Industrialization."

The four Republican congressmen who lead the hearing — Reps. Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew, both of New Jersey, Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania — heard testimony from invited speakers who said offshore wind development could harm marine life, alter ecosystems, be prohibitively expensive to taxpayers and amount to industrializing the ocean.

Elsewhere, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last month to call for a moratorium on the construction of offshore wind farms to allow for further study of its impact upon the Jersey Shore's environment and economy — including the impact on marine life.

After these latest dolphin deaths on Tuesday, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters — which supports offshore wind energy — was quick to issue a statement to immediately head off any suggestion it was the consequence of wind-related survey activities.

"As we have repeatedly stated, we need to continue to base our decisions on data, science, and evidence - not conjecture," said Allison McLeod, policy director for the New Jersey LCV. "NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management), and the independent Marine Mammal Commission have all gone on the record to state there is no evidence of a connection between the strandings and offshore wind activities. In addition, when the Marine Mammal Stranding Center has had the opportunity to conduct necropsies, the results have shown evidence of boat strikes and net entanglements."

Last month, three common dolphins died after they were found stranded on the bayside of Gateway National Recreation Area on Sandy Hook. The dolphins that perished on Tuesday were also common dolphins, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

Source: Asbury Park Press