Seismic blasting in the Atlantic could help drive the right whale to extinction. The Trump administration just OK’d it anyway.

Credit: NOAA

Seismic blasting, the use of loud airguns to search for oil and gas reserves under the ocean floor, has long been known to harm marine life, from small crabs to huge whales. But the Trump administration doesn’t seem to care. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service issued five permits to allow seismic testing for one year in large swaths off the East Coast, from the New Jersey and Delaware border to central Florida. This is a preliminary step in the administration’s plans to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling, but the environmental effects are severe. The blasts are as loud as dynamite and fired about every 10 seconds, day and night, for months. This incessant noise disrupts vital behaviors of whales and dolphins, which rely on their own sounds to find food, mate, and navigate the sea. It also injures invertebrates, displaces fish, and puts commercial fisheries at risk. (And we haven't even gotten to the actual drilling and spilling yet.) Some biologists predict that seismic activity alone could drive some endangered species, like the right whale, to extinction. And what’s gained from all this? More offshore drilling that states don’t want—for more carbon-intensive fuels that the planet's rapidly warming atmosphere does not need.

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