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NJ whale deaths have sparked right-wing conspiracy theories on Facebook

Amy S. Rosenberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

They named the whale Windy.

"Windy was a young humpback whale taken in the prime of her life," read the caption on a March 3 post in the Facebook group Protect our Coast NJ showing the diseased humpback whale on the beach near Seaside Park.

"Her gravesite is dug — this will be her final resting place."

The caption ended with five emojis: prayer hands, crying face, whale, blue heart, another prayer hands.

Before long, it had been shared 1.7K times, with 420 comments. Many traced the whale's death, and those of nearly two dozen others along the coast of New York and New Jersey since early December 2022, to work being done in advance of several large-scale wind turbine farms off the Jersey coast. It is a connection scientists and government agencies have dismissed.

Even as necropsies find evidence of ship strikes in nearly half of the whales, which have been dying in elevated numbers since 2016, the drumbeat of scapegoating wind energy has intensified.


The debate has split, perhaps predictably, along political lines, frustrating those who say they really are just worried about the whales and those who have other concerns about the full impact of wind turbines.

"When do we March?" said one poster, whose Facebook bio is "SURVIVOR, RESPECTFUL, DEDICATED, PERSISTENT, PATRIOT." "I'm so mad I could spit."

Election conspiracy theories soon followed, with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy a frequent target of derision.

They quoted the Book of Jonah, pondered whether to march on Trenton, packed local municipal meetings.


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