I wanted to bring to your attention a recent media development arising from our PLosOne paper on the Bahamas BRS and other research efforts. After the release of that paper, a (UK) Daily Telegraph article shortly thereafter made an odd and incorrect connection between our work (on behavioral responses of cetaceans to simulated military sonar and other human sounds) and offshore wind farms.
Though the Telegraph published a retraction of the unsubstantiated claim that windfarms cause whale strandings, this didn't stop serveral other publications from picking up this "story" and, through a series of baseless and irresponsible telephone-tag reporting without checking facts, this resulted in a Newsweek article claiming offshore wind energy is unsafe because whales are stranded by windfarms.
Fortunately, MediaMatters, a media watchdog group, picked up on this erroneous series of events and contacted some of the principles on this issue, including myself, and clarified the story that Newsweek botched. For more details on this, please check out: http://mediamatters.org/research/201104040031
Newsweek Falsely Blames Wind Turbines For Whale Beachings
The latest issue of Newsweek claims that "a new study suggests" offshore wind farms cause whales to beach themselves. In fact, the authors of the study said their research did not establish such a link, and the UK newspaper that reported the claim pulled the story from its website and issued a correction
Authors Of Study: "Erroneous" To Say Our Research Showed Link Between Wind Farms And Beachings
UK Paper Issued Correction After Reporting That Study Showed Wind Farms Kill Whales. The UK newspaper Daily Telegraph issued a correction after reporting on March 15 that scientists at the University of St Andrews found that "offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales become stranded on beaches." From the original article:
OFFSHORE wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales become stranded on beaches, according to scientists studying the problem.
The ground-breaking study confirmed the claims of environmentalists that sonar from submarines disturbs the navigation of whales. But it suggested that offshore wind farms, as well as oil rigs, and even passing ships, posed an even greater threat.
Scientists at the University of St Andrews studying beaked whales, a species that frequently becomes beached in Britain, concluded that they were extraordinarily timid creatures that were scared "by virtually anything unusual", despite being the size of a rhinoceros and weighing the same as a London bus.
The findings suggest that a greater number of strandings can be expected because ministers are planning a major expansion in the number of offshore wind farms, especially off the coast of Scotland - an area where whales congregate to feed. [The Daily Telegraph, 3/15/11, via Nexis]
- Telegraph Correction: Co-Author Of Study Said There Is No Known Link Between Beachings and Wind Farms. From the correction issued by the Telegraph on March 17:
Scientists studying why whales strand themselves said there was no known direct link between beachings and offshore wind farms.
Prof Ian Boyd, of the University of St Andrews, said construction of offshore energy sites was likely to cause some species to move away and to disturb their feeding and reproductive cycles.
Prof Boyd wished to correct a report in this paper this week that said there was a proven link between offshore wind farms and strandings of the mammals.
He said a quote attributed to him in a press release issued by the university, which discussed strandings related to sonar emissions from naval vessels and which suggested wind farm construction may also contribute to the disturbance of whales, had been taken out of context. [The Daily Telegraph, 3/17/11]
Study Co-Author: "To Suggest That Our Results Indicate Marine Mammals Are Stranded By Windfarms Is Just Erroneous And Bad Reporting." In an email to Media Matters, Brandon Southall, research associate at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-author of the study cited by the Telegraph criticized reports that his work showed a connection between whale strandings and wind farms, calling the reports "totally unsubstantiated." Southall further stated:
No one is saying that there won't be any potential disturbance from the installation or operation of wind farms - I personally think that is likely as well at least in terms of temporary responses during construction - and these are going in over large areas, particularly in the North Sea. But to suggest that our results indicate marine mammals are stranded by windfarms is just erroneous and bad reporting. [Email to Media Matters, 4/4/11]