In the midst of heated debates along the U.S. Atlantic coast regarding seismic testing, citizens in the Caribbean are waging their own war against energy companies who want to use this technology to search for oil and gas deposits. Seismic airguns have been shown to reduce catch rates, harm marine mammals, and threaten the livelihood of coastal communities.
Just last week, local fishermen in the small Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago teamed up with environmentalists to hold a series of peaceful protests aimed at protecting fish and their livelihood, both of which are threatened by offshore oil operations.
Fishermen continued their resistance on the water, using 12 fishing boats to force massive seismic ships to slow down. Times are so desperate for these fishermen that they were prepared to face guns to protect their fishery.
In a press release, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea reported a 70 percent drop in fish catches that last months after seismic airguns were used. Even worse, a research article suggests that the humpback whales have not returned to the region due to the loud noises generated by the airguns.
As this news emerges about Caribbean fishers, the U.S. is evaluating whether seismic surveys should be allowed along the East Coast. A January 10th congressional hearing on seismic testing was largely a "dog and pony show" by the oil industry in support of this practice. Noticeably, no marine scientists or fishermen testified to demonstrate the adverse effects of seismic surveys on marine life.
Unfortunately, ocean ecosystems are not free from attack even after seismic surveys are completed. Seismic testing is the first of many dangerous steps taken by oil companies to extract fossil fuel resources. After testing comes drilling, which run the risk of catastrophic oil spills. This April will mark four years since the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where nearly 5 billion barrels of oil poured into the gulf and decimated entire marine ecosystems, which are still damaged to this day. Finally, once the oil is drilled and burned as fuel, the fossil fuel emissions intensify climate change’s far-reaching effects, from ocean acidification to the extinction of coral reef fish.
Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the fishermen in Trinidad and Tobago. They have fished these waters for thousands of years and are highly in tune with their environment. Seismic testing threatens their very way of life. Can we really afford to let our fishermen in the Atlantic suffer the same fate?