WASHINGTON – The Trump Administration today proposed to allow energy companies to harm marine mammals as they prospect for oil and gas deposits far beneath the sea floor, blasting huge expanses of undersea waters off the Atlantic coast with airguns.
The following is a statement by Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“The American people own these Atlantic waters. This is the first step towards drilling them. It’s a license for energy companies—in their relentless drive for more fossil fuels—to devastate marine wildlife. Scientists warn that seismic activity alone could drive the endangered North Atlantic right whale to extinction. Lawmakers, commercial and recreational fisherman, hundreds of communities and tens of thousands of coastal businesses strongly oppose this reckless give-away to the oil and gas industry, and will stand in the way of final permits.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to issue five (5) permits known as Incidental Harm Authorizations, allowing seismic testing for a one year period. The public has 30 days to comment on the proposals.
The move follows President Trump’s executive order of April 28, attempting to reverse permanent ocean protections and open America’s publicly-held coastal waters to more offshore drilling.
Seismic airgun blasts, which come as loud as dynamite every ten seconds for weeks and months on end, can deafen whales and other marine wildlife, making it hard for them to find food, select mates, avoid predators and navigate. The process can also displace fish and harm commercial fisheries over large areas of the ocean.
In 2015, 75 scientists sent a letter to the former administration warning of “significant, long-lasting, and widespread” harm to east coast marine mammal and fish populations should the blasting be allowed to proceed. Last year, a group of right whale scientists sent a letter to the administration out of “profound concern” for the impact of seismic on the future of that species.
For more on seismic exploration and the threats to marine wildlife, see Michael Jasny's blog here.
To hear audio of seismic blasting, click here.
For a clip from the NRDC documentary Sonic Sea, about how seismic testing and other ocean activity harms marine life, see here.
For an NRDC animation on the impact of seismic, see here.
Audio from the press briefing is here: http://www.hastingsgroupmedia.com/NRDC/060517SeismicReax.mp3
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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.