Trump Administration to OK Blasting for Oil and Gas in Atlantic

Seismic Testing, First Step Toward Offshore Drilling, Threatens Marine Wildlife and Fisheries

WASHINGTON – Marine mammals will be gravely threatened as a result of permits to be issued Friday by the Trump Administration allowing seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean in search of oil and gas deposits. The National Marine Fisheries service is set to issue five (5) permits—known as Incidental Harassment Authorizations—allowing airgun blasting in huge expanses of undersea waters off the coast for a one-year period.

Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, had the following statement:

“Just one week after issuing dire warnings on the catastrophic fallout of climate change to come, the Trump Administration is opening our coastlines to for-profit companies to prospect for oil and gas—and is willing to sacrifice marine life, our coastal communities and fisheries in the process.  This is the first step towards drilling and scientists warn that seismic activity alone could drive the endangered North Atlantic right whale to extinction.  We’ll stand with citizens, coastal businesses, scientists, lawmakers, and commercial and recreational fishermen who oppose seismic blasting, and we are preparing to fight this illegal action.”


A year ago, the Trump Administration proposed to issue these IHA permits, just months after the Obama administration concluded that airgun blasting in the Atlantic was too risky.  President Trump also issued an executive order in April 2017, attempting to reverse permanent ocean protections and open America’s publicly-held coastal waters to more seismic testing and offshore drilling. 

Prospecting for oil and gas deposits far beneath the ocean floor involves repeated blasting of seismic airguns. The process is known to disrupt foraging and other vital behaviors in endangered whales, displace fish, and harm commercial fisheries over vast areas of the ocean. The airgun blasts, as loud as dynamite, fired every ten seconds for weeks and months on end, can blanket the ocean with noise, making it hard for whales and other marine wildlife to find food, select mates, avoid predators and navigate. The process can also displace fish, injure and kill invertebrates from zooplankton to scallops, and harm commercial fisheries over large areas of the ocean. 

Scientists sent a letter to the Obama administration in 2015 warning of “significant, long-lasting, and widespread” harm to east coast marine mammal and fish populations should the blasting be allowed to proceed. A group of right whale scientists also sent a letter to the Obama administration out of “profound concern” for the impact of seismic on the future of that species.

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 testing, see here.

For more on NRDC’s opposition to seismic blasting, see here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 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, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​


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