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Legislative Whale Inquiry: Too Little, Too Late

Coastal And Ocean Protection Council, Formed In 2007, Was Never Funded

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Today, the NJ Assembly Science Committee held a hearing on the whale mortality issue.

In case you are interested in relevant history, see my letter below to Chairman Tully. I wrote about the issue back in 2021, before the wind/whale controversy emerged, see:

Had this 2007 law been implemented and the Ocean Protection Council funded, we would have the science and data on marine mammals being discussed today in the Assembly hearing. [Full disclosure: I wrote the bill. Senator Smith can confirm that.]

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <>

To: asmtully@njleg.org, asmmckeon <asmmckeon@njleg.org>, senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, sengreenstein <sengreenstein@njleg.org>, kduhon@njleg.org, shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov, Sean.Moriarty@dep.nj.gov, Benson Chiles <bensonchiles@gmail.com>

Date: 05/18/2023 9:43 AM MDT

Subject: Whale inquiry information

Dear Chairman Tully –

In listening just now to your hearing today, I thought you should be aware of an existing legislatively created mechanism to conduct scientific research and analyze the issues you are exploring.

In 2007, the NJ Legislature created the Coastal and Ocean Protection Council precisely to do this work, see: P.L. 2007, CHAPTER 288, approved January 13, 2008 

The Legislature found that:

The ocean is a public trust and in order to ensure the protection of the public trust, the governance of these ocean resources should be guided by principles of sustainability, ecosystem health, precaution, recognition of the interconnectedness between land and ocean, and public participation in the decision-making process;

The bill was sponsored by Senator Smith and I worked with him in drafting it (copied here).

The law established a Council to provide science based recommendations to DEP on ways to improve ocean protection

The council shall have the following powers, duties, and responsibilities:

 (1) to request from the commissioner any information concerning ecosystem-based management as it may deem necessary

     (2) to consider any matter relating to the protection, maintenance, and restoration of coastal and ocean resources;

     (3) to submit, from time to time, to the commissioner any recommendations which the council deems necessary that will protect, maintain and restore coastal and ocean resources;

     (4) to study ecosystem-based management approaches;

     (5) to study any policies, plans, and rules and regulations adopted by the department that impact coastal and ocean resources;

     (6) to study and investigate coastal and habitat protection;

     (7) to coordinate and develop plans for a research agenda on ecosystem-based management;

     (8) to consider data and any other relevant information on the overall health of New Jersey’s coastal and ocean resources in order to document how the State is meeting the goal of protecting, maintaining and restoring healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems; and

     (9) to hold public hearings at least once a year to take testimony from the public concerning ecosystem-based management approaches.

Second, it expanded DEP’s powers to include not only research, but implementation of “plans and programs”:

w.    Conduct research and implement plans and programs to promote ecosystem-based management.

Third, it provided a start up appropriation of $75,000 to get the ball rolling.

I recommend that you revive this Council and fund its work.


Bill Wolfe

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