Documentary: How Ocean Wind Farms Are Killing Whales

Originally published by MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER on Substack
Why This Documentary May Save The Whales

Filmmaker discovered high-decibel sonar levels while shooting “Thrown To The Wind,” about why the wind industry could make the North Atlantic Right Whales extinct.

The increase in whale, dolphin, and other cetacean deaths off the East Coast of the United States since 2016 is not due to the construction of large industrial wind turbines, U.S. government officials say. Their scientists have done the research, they say, to prove that whatever is killing the whales is completely unrelated to the wind industry.

But now, a new documentary, “Thrown To The Wind,” by Director and Producer Jonah Markowitz, proves that the US government officials have been lying. The full film, which is at the bottom of this article, documents surprisingly loud, high-decibel sonar emitted by wind industry vessels when measured with state-of-the-art hydrophones. And it shows that the wind industry’s increased boat traffic is correlated directly with specific whale deaths.

The documentary may not stop the industrial wind projects from being built. After all, the wind projects were going forward despite urgent warnings from leading conservation groups and a top scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

But “Thrown To The Wind” exposes the reality that the U.S. government agencies, and the scientists who work for them, either haven’t done the basic mapping and acoustic research to back up their claims, have done the research badly, or found what we found, and are covering it up.

“Thrown To The Wind” – Trailer (click here and scroll down)

There appear to be at least two distinct mechanisms by which wind industry activities are killing whales. The first is through boat traffic in areas where that hasn’t historically been traffic. And the second is through high-decibel sonar mapping that can disorient whales, separate mothers from their calves, and send them into harm’s way, either into boat traffic or poorer feeding grounds.

Whatever the case, “Thrown To The Wind” blows the lid off a major scientific scandal and will have an exponentially larger effect than past warnings.

A big part of the reason is the high quality of the filmmaking. Shot in the hand-held style made famous by Paul Greengrass, the creator and director of the Jason Bourne movies, Markowitz’s “Thrown To The Wind” gives the experience of being on the ocean, in the forests, and in the room with the film’s stars, Lisa Linowes, who correlated the whale deaths to wind industry activity with Eric Turner, and Rob Rand.

And the commitment by Markowitz to investigative documentary filmmaking led him to go out on the ocean with Rand to measure the sound of industrial wind activity. It was on that trip that Rand and his team discovered high-decibel sound emissions that appear to violate NOAA’s protective standards for marine life.

When combined with the work of Linowes and Turner, correlating whale deaths with wind industry vessel traffic, Rand’s acoustic research should have far-reaching implications, including halting all industrial wind activity along the East Coast.

Why, ultimately, do we think that “Thrown To The Wind” will have an exponentially larger effect than past warnings? Because of the integrity of the filmmakers, who include, beyond Markowitz, Editor Jorge Garcia-Spitz, Executive Producer and Public co-founder Leighton Woodhouse, and the researchers: Linowes, Turner, and Rand.


Given the evidence presented in “Thrown To The Wind,” it’s clear that the American people and our representatives cannot trust NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the two government agencies that have betrayed the public’s trust, repeatedly, for years, in service to powerful industrial interests.

Because politics has corrupted the normal scientific and regulatory process for protecting the North Atlantic Right Whales, we are urging elected officials at the federal and state level to conduct an investigation, issue subpoenas, and hold public hearings.

I have been involved in a lot of great causes in the 35 years that I have been politically active. This one, saving the whales, is easily one of the most noble and important. It’s clearly hit a nerve: over 20,000 people have re-posted, and 5 million people total, across two tweets, have viewed the posts with the embedded trailer for “Thrown To The Wind” on social media over the last 48 hours.

Saving the North Atlantic Right Whale is a goal that is within reach and well worth pursuing. Yes, its numbers have plummeted from over 400 to just 340 at the last estimate. But the species will likely rebound if the sonar mapping and new boat activity in previously untrafficked areas is ended.

We have done our part. As Linowes, Rand, and Turner can attest, the data acquisition and analysis haven’t been easy. Nor has the filmmaking. The high quality of the final product speaks to the love and passion felt for the subject by everyone involved.

Now it’s your turn. What would you do to save the North Atlantic Right Whales from extinction? Would you pay as much as you might to see a forgettable Hollywood movie to watch, “Thrown to the Wind”?

In the end, we believe that simply watching “Thrown To The Wind” and encouraging your friends and family to watch it will help change how we think about the problem. Viewers will see that the increase in whale and other cetacean deaths is, in reality, due to the wind industry, despite what U.S. government officials, and their obedient stenographers in the corporate news media, have said.

“Thrown To The Wind” – Full Film

Director and Producer: Jonah Markowitz
Editor: Jorge Garcia-Spitz
Executive Producers: Leighton Woodhouse and Michael Shellenberger

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