The editor of well-respected scientific journal Marine Policy has tried to debunk growing public concern in Australia that offshore wind farms are causing excessive whale deaths, hindering government efforts to establish the industry in the country.
According to ABC News, efforts by Professor Quentin Hanich to calm panic over the impacts of the renewable energy source were triggered by a social media post in Facebook community group No Offshore Wind Farm.
The post referenced a University of Tasmania study, allegedly published in Marine Policy, which estimated that future offshore wind projects “could kill up to 400 whales per year”.
After trawling through hundreds of academic papers, Hanich concluded that the alleged article “does not exist… We never received this imaginary paper… I am seeing no evidence that the study ever took place.” He added that he thinks the misinformation is part of a “culture war” attempting to undermine the wind industry.
The notion that wind turbines are directly related to whale deaths has been widely disregarded by marine scientists, who argue that there is no conclusive or credible evidence anywhere to link a rise in whale deaths to offshore wind infrastructure. Most cases of while deaths in recent years are thought to have been caused by either entanglement in fishing nets or vessel strikes.
The post has since been deleted, but damage seems to have already been done as protests against offshore wind development plans outlined by Australia’s Government continue. “There’s been a whole bunch of continuing dialogue that suggests that windfarms kill whales without any actual evidence to demonstrate that that’s the case,” Hanich told the Guardian.
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Local MPs in Australia have also expressed concern over misinformation on negative impacts of renewable infrastructure. “Offshore wind is still a very new concept for many people here in the Illawarra,” Member for Cunningham in Wollongong, Alison Byrnes, said earlier this month at a panel hosted by the Urban Development Institute of Australia. “Unfortunately, some in our community have used this to spread a lot of misinformation about the offshore wind industry.”