Floating humpback whale offshore of Delaware. Photo: Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute.

TOMS RIVER, NJ – When humpback whales started washing up dead at the Jersey Shore in December, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said nothing was unusual about it. The Governor cited an increase in stranded whales in the Atlantic Ocean since 2016.

While there has been an uptick in whale beachings between 2016 and 2023, according to the NOAA data, the number of whales washing up at the Jersey Shore is very unusual.

From 2016 through November of 2022, 16 humpback whale beachings have been reported by the NOAA. In the three months since the first whale showed up dead in December, eleven more beachings have been recorded in the state.

In 2022, there were four total whale beachings, including those reported in December. In 2021, there were zero reported whale beachings.

State201620172018 2019 2020202120222023Total
New Jersey3325404728
New York4585912236
Source: NOAA Fisheries.

In a typical year, whale beachings are reported between three and five times per year in New Jersey. There have been 11 in about a three-month span since December. That number is very usual.

In fact, the 11 whale beachings in New Jersey this winter equal the total number of beachings from 2019 through 2022 combined, not including the December beachings.

“It seems like every day we have another report of a dead whale floating offshore or landing on one of our beaches,” said New Jersey Senator Anthony Bucco. “How many more dead whales does Governor Murphy need to see before he finally takes action? We need to investigate what’s causing these deaths to learn if it’s something we can easily fix.”

At a recent press event, Murphy said those who disagreed with his assessment were guilty of disseminating disinformation.

“It is precisely this spread of disinformation that has made the incorporation of climate change education into our school curricula so critical,” Murphy said two weeks ago.

The truth is nobody knows what is killing so many whales off the coast of New Jersey. The governor could be right. He could also be wrong, as no scientific studies have been done to determine the cause of the latest unusual mortality event, or UME as the NOAA calls it.

“A portion of the whales have shown evidence of pre-mortem vessel strike; however, this finding is not consistent across all whales examined. More research is needed,” the NOAA said recently.

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That was before politicians up and down the Jersey Shore called for more research and a halt to off-shore sonar and seismic surveys being carried out in the area ahead of a planned massive offshore wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City.

Officials are now calling for a 30-day moratorium on that work, but Democrats and Governor Murphy have refused to listen to their calls.

This week, the Twitterverse and Facebook went on fire after citizen journalists speculated that a U.K. holding company owned by the Murphy family bears the same name as U.K. based offshore wind energy services firm that has ties to the company building one of New Jersey’s offshore wind farms.

JECS Limited is the holding company that owns Murphy’s $7 million private estate in Italy. JECS shares the same name as JECS Offshore, a U.K.-based company that works with Orsted, the company building the offshore wind farm in New Jersey.

There is no solid evidence that the two companies are connected or that Phil Murphy has any interest in JECS offshore, but it raises a peculiar coincidence that has set social media on fire in recent days.

If it turns out the two companies are connected, New Jerseyans could possibly get a clearer picture of why Murphy is so adamant against stopping the project. But that is pure speculation at this point.

Editor’s Update: The two companies are not connected.

Phil Murphy has not yet responded to accusations surrounding JECS. He has also not spoken publicly about the whale beachings since February 13th. JECS is also suspected to be an acronym for Murphy’s four children, Josh, Emma, Charlie, and Sam.

“There are those out there motivated not by our concern for our environment but by their own political ideologies,” Murphy said last month.