In a Blow to Marine Life, Trump Administration Greenlights Seismic Blasting in Atlantic

This move puts the administration’s fossil fuel agenda above marine wildlife and fisheries.
Credit: NOAA

This move puts the administration’s fossil fuel agenda above marine wildlife and fisheries.

Marine mammals, many of which are already under threat, are now at greater risk, as the Trump administration issued permits today allowing seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean—a disruptive practice used to search for oil and gas deposits underneath the ocean floor.

“This is a license for private, for-profit companies to maim and even kill fragile marine life,” says Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “And it’s the first step in exploiting the ocean treasures we all own—all in a reckless quest for more fossil fuels that speed up climate change.” 

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s five new permits, or Incidental Harassment Authorizations, will allow airgun blasting for one year in large undersea areas off the Atlantic coast. The blasts are as loud as dynamite and fired every 10 seconds for weeks, sometimes months. Blanketing the ocean, the noise disrupts the vital behaviors of marine life, including finding food, selecting mates, avoiding predators, and navigating. It’s also known to injure and kill invertebrates, displace fish, and put commercial fisheries at risk. “Scientists warn that seismic activity alone could drive the endangered North Atlantic right whale to extinction,” Jasny says.

The fight to end harmful seismic testing is years in the making; after multiple groups of scientists warned the Obama administration about its “significant, long-lasting, and widespread” impacts, the administration eventually agreed that airgun blasting in the Atlantic was too risky. But President Trump soon reversed course, plus he issued an executive order in April 2017 attempting to open up public coastal waters to offshore drilling—and the seismic testing that comes with it. 

“We’ll stand together with all the communities, coastal businesses, scientists, lawmakers, and commercial and recreational fishermen who oppose seismic blasting,” Jasny says. “And we will fight this illegal action.”

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