SELC looks to stop seismic blasting in Atlantic, a precursor to drilling

Endangered right whales are one of many species that would be impacted by seismic blasting. The waters off the Southeast United States are the only place they give birth. (© NOAA)

Today SELC joined national and local organizations, Atlantic coast states, local communities, and leading scientists in calling on the Trump administration to deny five draft permits for seismic airgun blasting off the Atlantic coast. These permits to harass whales and dolphins are required before companies can conduct seismic blasting off our coast. Before issuing these authorizations, the Department of Commerce must ensure that the proposed testing will have no more than a “negligible impact” on marine mammals.

Seismic blasting in the Atlantic would involve dynamite-like blasts going off every ten seconds for weeks or months on end. The Department of Commerce’s own study has found that seismic blasting could injure up to 130,000 whales and dolphins.  In 2015, 75 scientists warned the Obama administration of the “significant, long-lasting, and widespread” harm that seismic airgun blasting has on marine mammals and fish. In June 2017, a new study published in Nature found that seismic airguns have devastating impacts on zooplankton, which are vital food sources for the marine ecosystem, including for marine mammals and fish. The science is clear: seismic airgun blasting will have long-lasting and far-reaching adverse impacts on the marine environment and the communities that depend on these resources.

“We’re talking about harming commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as whales and dolphins, so the oil industry can advance its case for drilling off our coast,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for SELC.  “None of this will benefit the people who live and play on the Southeast coast, and this unnecessary harm should be stopped before it starts.”

The Department of Commerce is expected to make a final decision on the marine mammal permits by the end of the summer. 

In addition, the negative effects of seismic airgun blasting, it is also the first step toward risky and harmful offshore oil and gas drilling. Communities up and down the Atlantic coast—most recently Norfolk and Virginia Beach—have said no to offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting in order to protect our economy, environment, and way of life. 

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