During a recent speech in North Carolina, Donald Trump blamed offshore wind farms for the rise in whale deaths.

Trump made the remarks about offshore wind’s possible link to the surge in baleen whale deaths along the East Coast during a campaign speech delivered at Sportsman Boats in Summerville, South Carolina, a town in the state’s “lowcountry” that relies heavily on boating for recreational and economic activity. He made the comment after ripping the Biden administration’s efforts to impose low-speed zones in large swaths of coastal Atlantic waters, a policy which advocates say will help protect whales from vessel strikes.

“You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than hitting a whale with your boat,” Trump said. “There has only been, listen to this, one such whale killed off the coast of South Carolina in the last 50 years, but on the other hand, [Biden-supported] windmills are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before. Nobody does anything about that.”

Daily Caller 25 September 2023

Fox News seems to agree and publishes such, see YouTube 26K views.

I am skeptical about this. For one, the population of whales has increased markedly in recent years (particularly hump-backed whales) due to conservation efforts and legislation; thus, I suggest, more dead whales will turn up than previously.

Is there any statistical evidence to support Donald Trump's assertions ?

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    Reminder: the claim is about whales and windfarms. Your opinion of Trump, Fox and their supporters is not relevant. Your unreferenced opinions about whales are not wanted here.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 12:45
  • 2
    Comments are meant to help improve the question. Please don't post pseudo-answers in comments. If you want to discuss which comments should and shouldn't be deleted, please take it to meta.
    – tim
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 16:24
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    Isn't the specific claim usually that sonar used for mapping seafloor during wind farm construction is what confuses whales and causes them to end up beaching/dying? That's what I remember from the NIMBY environmental lawsuits at least
    – CJR
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 16:48
  • @CJR The equipment used for mapping the sea floor is the one developed in the past 40 years by the oil industry which already mapped most of the coastal areas around the world.
    – FluidCode
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:41

3 Answers 3


NOAA has found no evidence of a link.

NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US. From their FAQ about wind farms and whales...

At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales. There are no known links between recent large whale mortalities and ongoing offshore wind surveys.

We will continue to gather data to help us determine the cause of death for these mortality events. We will also continue to explore how sound, vessel, and other human activities in the marine environment impact whales and other marine mammals.

Lauren Gaches, NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs Director, stated in a press conference on Jan 18, 2023...

Since January 2016, NOAA Fisheries has been monitoring an Unusual Mortality Event for humpback whales with elevated strandings along the entire East Coast. There are currently 178 humpback whales included in the unusual mortality event. Partial or full necropsy examinations were conducted on approximately half of the whales. Of the whales examined, about 40% had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike or entanglement. And to date, no whale mortality has been attributed to offshore wind activities.

She went on to explain how boat strikes are one of the highest risk factors.

We know of several factors that may be driving these interactions. As the humpback whale population has grown, their occurrence in the Mid-Atlantic has increased. These whales may be following their prey - which we're hearing from our partners in the region - are reportedly close to shore this winter. More whales in the water and traveled areas by boats of all sizes increases the risk of vessel strikes.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Skeptics Meta, or in Skeptics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – tim
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 9:46
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    The National Academy in the US has distributed a study which says that more study is needed
    – user295691
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 20:36

As of now (September 2023), it appears that NOAA has found no evidence of a link, as indicated by the accepted answer. They have acknowledged that there is an apparent increase in whale mortality of unclear causation.

This is not to say that they have found that there is no link between windfarms and mortality, that is, they have not shown (so far as I can tell) a lack of correlation. I have not found any academic papers discussing this.

Here is some raw data:

Both of these contain maps with information on all available incidents.

From here it would be a matter of looking at the time series of the development pipeline and seeing if there is any correlation between that and the increased whale deaths. I have not found anywhere where someone has done this analysis.

Even were a correlation to be found, establishing causation would still have to be established, but while correlation does not imply causation, lack of correlation strongly implies lack of causation, so this seems like the first step.

EDIT 2023-12-12:

A study has been distributed (at some point in early October, after this question was originally answered) by the National Academies which, while not concluding that there is a connection or lack of connection, enumerates several plausible mechanisms of actions to motivate further research into a possible connection.

The conclusions are all of the form "more research is needed" but it seems clear that while we have no direct evidence of a link, we also have no direct evidence that there is not a link, so this remains well within the bounds of speculation.

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    This is phrasing the issue in a strange light. NOAA specifically looked into the issue and they found no link. They looked into it because there appears to be a correlation. Claiming they 'didn't show a lack of correlation' is very misleading, that is not what they can or should be trying to do. Knowing that there is a correlation they tried to figure out whether there is a causative link. Their result was that there is not. This is the classic causation versus correlation discussion. You seem to imply that one should try to disprove correlation.
    – quarague
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 10:11
  • Can you source any of this? I could find no statement about there being a correlation or any published or internal research describing this.
    – user295691
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 11:07
  • @quarague I did not intend to be argumentative -- I'm interested in any additional information you have here. I don't see any indication that they "know that there is a correlation", and if you have a source that makes that claim I would like to see it. This is assuming that you mean "correlation" in the statistical sense rather than the colloquial sense.
    – user295691
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 17:36

Offshore windfarms require seismic surveys before they are built.

The RPS Group consultants explain

Generally, the required site investigation surveys [for planning and permitting of an offshore windfarm] include several progressive phases, where the preceding phase informs on the following phase. Typically three subsurface data sets are collected using Sub-Bottom Profiler (SBP), Single Channel Seismic (SCS) and Multichannel Seismic (MCS) methods. This approach hasn't changed much since the 1970s, and it has significant limitations in spatial aerial coverage and resolution. As a result, it does not provide a complete, continuous picture of the shallow subsurface. Having the complete picture is paramount to the interpreter for accurately characterizing the subsurface and identifying potential hazards.

The Center for Biological Diversity is an environmental action group. They report :

Offshore oil and gas exploration uses deafening seismic surveys that generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean, short of those made by explosives. Seismic testing involves blasting the seafloor with high-powered airguns (a kind of powerful horn) every 10 seconds and measuring the echoes with long tubes to map offshore oil and gas reserves. These blasts disturb, injure and kill marine wildlife around the clock for years on end.


Department of the Interior environmental studies have estimated that seismic proposals under review would cause more than 31 million instances of harm to marine mammals in the Gulf and 13.5 million harmful interactions with marine mammals in the Atlantic, killing or injuring 138,000 dolphins and whales — including nine endangered North Atlantic right whales, whose calving grounds are off Florida's coast.

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    On Average it takes two years to build a wind farm and the survey is performed before construction begins. Explaining stranded whales with the noise that was caused two years earlier seems a bit far fetched.
    – FluidCode
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 9:51
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    Blaming deaths on seismic surveys is not the same as blaming deaths on wind farms (not least because the timing is very different). Moreover, seismic surveys are also used for other things, like oil exploration so what makes wind farms special?
    – matt_black
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 11:55
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    Welcome to Skeptics! Please note that (a) references are required here, (b) plagiarism is not acceptable here, (c) we don't care about your political views, (d) name-calling is not acceptable.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 12:38
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    This isn't really an answer, because the Center for Biological Diversity is rather circumspect about what its sources are: "Department of the Interior environmental studies" is hard to chase down (and if you are going to answer "it is easy with Google", then please do so, and post the results as your answer instead,) so this isn't much more than a repeat of the claim.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 12:42
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    earthjustice.org/press/2017/… led me to boem.gov/gulf-mexico-geological-and-geophysical-gg, which appears to be the referenced survey, from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Underlying report is at boem.gov/sites/default/files/documents/regions/… but does not seem to mention the harm referred to in the press release
    – user295691
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:16

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