Seismic blasting efforts halted in Atlantic Ocean

At least for now, endangered North Atlantic right whales will be spared the threat of seismic blasting.

A status conference on seismic litigation revealed today the industry will not pursue efforts to employ seismic blasting to search the Atlantic Ocean for offshore petroleum deposits this year, and possibly for several years.

“This is a huge victory not just for us but for every coastal community that loudly and persistently protested the possibility of seismic blasting,” says Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney.

The hearing marked a victory for dozens of organizations and thousands of coastal communities and businesses in a years-long legal and public battle challenging the government’s issuance of Incidental Harassment Authorizations, or IHAs. Those authorizations were needed because the air-gun bombardment of the sea floor would have hurt ocean animals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

There will be no boats in the water this year, and because this resets the clock, there will be no boats in the water for a long time. And we’ll continue fighting to keep it that way.”

—Catherine Wannamaker, Senior Attorney

“Seismic blasting in the Atlantic would sound the death knell for this magnificent species,” says Alice M. Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for One Hundred Miles. “We are at a crucial time for the last remaining 400 North Atlantic right whales on the planet [and] we are proud to stand alongside hundreds of thousands of Georgians and East Coast residents who have fought against seismic blasting.”

Other developments included:

  • Recognition by government attorneys that the IHAs would expire on Nov. 30, and there was no mechanism to extend them.
  • Acknowledgment that seeking new permits would move the lengthy process back to square one.
  • A concession from lawyers representing the seismic industry that it is not feasible to launch boats this year.

“The Trump administration has left the door open to new proposals from industry,” says Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC. “The only way to end the threat is to prohibit offshore oil and gas exploration for good.”

There will be no boats in the water this year, and because this resets the clock, there will be no boats in the water for a long time.

Concludes Wannamaker, “And we’ll continue fighting to keep it that way.”

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