For more than 30 years, the Atlantic coast has been off limits to offshore drilling. Today, our government appears to be folding to the pressure of Big Oil and its big money.
This morning, the Obama administration approved the use of dynamite-like blasts to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in the Atlantic Ocean. The decision opens Delaware through Florida—an area twice the size of California—to these blasts, in spite of the proven threats to marine, mounting local opposition, and risks to fisheries.
“VEEP” actor Reid Scott joined Oceana last Thursday in the fight against seismic airgun blasting, urging Congress and the Obama administration to oppose this controversial technology. He spoke on an expert panel at a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss the risks associated with seismic airgun use, including the threats to fisheries, local economies, and marine mammals like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Several weeks ago, I wrote to you about how the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is planning to allow seismic airguns off the East Coast, despite the obvious harm they will cause marine life, including whales and dolphins.
One of the dangers whales face is entanglement in fishing gear such as longlines, traps and pots. When officials become aware of these events, disentanglement teams are sent out to assess the situation and free the whales whenever possible.
Some researchers have worried that the stress of being caught in fishing gear and the prolonged exposure to humans during the rescue might permanently affect the whales, possibly hindering their ability to reproduce. But this birthing season, three formerly entangled right whales were spotted and photographed with their calves, The Washington Post reports.
Equator, so named for the rope scar around her middle, was seen with her newborn near Little Saint Simon’s island off the Georgia coast.
Sometime early next year the Department of the Interior will decide whether to approve seismic airgun testing to search for oil and gas deposits in a wide swath of ocean, from Delaware to Florida. If the Department goes ahead with the proposal, by their own conservative estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will be injured as a result.
Seismic airguns arrays work by discharging compressed air with dynamite-like intensity into the water column at 10 second intervals around the clock, for weeks on end. For marine mammals nearby the sound is literally deafening—and for animals that crucially rely on sound to navigate, find food and communicate, going deaf is tantamount to a death sentence.
But seismic airgun testing won’t only be detrimental to those below the water. The huge expanse of ocean where testing will take place is already home to a $12 billion fishing industry that employs 200,000 men and women. These fishermen are scared, and with good reason. Cod and haddock fisheries have seen catch plummet 40 to 80 percent after the use of a single airgun array and fishermen in Norway have had to seek compensation for a drop in catch in the wake of testing.
“It's a disaster waiting to happen,” said actress, environmentalist and Oceana donor Victoria Principal. Principal is supporting Oceana’s efforts to prevent seismic testing in the Atlantic, including the launch, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, of a brand new Facebook application, where you can add your photo to sign our petition to the Department of the Interior.
As Oceana marine scientist Matthew Huelsenbeck recently told the New York Times about the proposal, “If they receive an environmental impact statement that says ‘go for it,’ they could start in 2013. This is coming down to the wire.”
If you are on Facebook, I encourage you to add your photo to our petition, and please spread the word.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana
To be an Ocean Hero, you have to have a strong commitment to your work—so what keeps our finalists going when the going gets tough?
The voting is open for our 2012 Ocean Heroes Awards, but if you're having a hard time deciding who your favorite finalist is, here's a chance to get to know them better.
Each of our finalists has their own unique story about just what it is that motivates them to protect the world’s oceans. Here’s what they told us keeps them working hard to achieve their goals:
Michele Hunter Sometimes it's witnessing the small steps a critical patient will take because of the dutiful care and treatment we provide to our patients. Knowing that all those hours of care made a difference. Being able to stand on the beach with your team and release an animal that you helped save is motivation enough!
Hardy Jones Frankly, what motivates me is the undeniable need for reform of the way we view and deal with the oceans. There is real danger of a collapse of the ocean ecosystem. Other motivation comes from direct contact with the magnificence of the ocean realm. Finally, I am motivated by the knowledge that I can make a difference if I put out the energy and intention to accomplish important goals.
Kristofor Lofgren I want to live in a healthy and beautiful world. I also want to do all I can to share that wonderful world with others. I am motived each and every day to help make the world a better place for everyone I never meet, simply because it is the right thing to do. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and share the same earth. I choose each day to bring passion to simple, good work...and that is enough.
Dave Rauschkolb The unapologetic grip the dirty fuel and nuclear industries have on our world, and seeing that clean energy and renewables are beginning to break that grip.
Rick Steiner I'm motivated by knowing the desperate state of the oceans, seeing my favorite seas and coasts lost to human ignorance and greed, and facilitating the successes I've been involved with. There is simply no other option but to ramp up the science-based advocacy for ocean protection -- and that is a powerful motivator. It is urgent to act, not just talk about the problem. Knowing we can, and must, succeed.
Don Voss I am motivated by the thousands of kids I talk to each year who are interested and react to this project. I help at least 25 new divers a year get started and into this sport and debris collection. I am motivated by the progress in removal and changes in water quality we are finding just this year. I am motivated when others notice what we do and want to participate and/or learn more. I am motivated when we continue to release thousands of snagged and trapped aquatic animals. I am spiritually motivated when I visit our Turtle rescue hospital and visit the critters we have sent there. Turtles are awesome and send me home an activist.
Sara Brenes I am so passionate about my belief and my drive to make a difference. I feel like I breathe, eat, sleep, and dream about sharks and our oceans. I think it is just hard wired in to me to not give up and to fight and fight and fight and reach another person and another person and another one. Just don't stop!
The Calvineers The North Atlantic right whale is the most endangered large whale in the world. Their population has grown little in the last thirty years (from about 300 to about 450), way below the estimated 2-3,000 needed for recovery. Until the whales recover, the Calvineers will keep up their work of educating the public.
Sam Harris I do it for the sharks. I love them.
James Hemphill My love of the ocean keeps me going. This is a problem that will not go away. As long as there is a large human population, there will be conflicts with the environment that need solutions. I want to be a part of those solutions. I have a stubborn determination to see cleaner oceans. This is where I play, swim, surf, fish, and kayak. I want my children to experience the same beautiful environment that I have.
Teakahla WhiteCloud Knowing that I am saving hatchlings so that the ocean will continue to live so that I will have a future to live.
Don’t forget to visit oceana.org/heroes and vote for your favorite adult and junior finalists. There’s less than a week until the voting period is over!
Photo Credits (clockwise from top left): Courtesy Hardy Jones, Oceana/Dustin Cranor, zeroXTE.com, Oceana/Carlos Minguell, Courtesy James Hemphill, Oceana/Eduardo Sorenson, Courtesy Sara Brenes, NOAA, Courtesy Michele Hunter, Courtesy Kristofor Lofgren, Flickr/Nemo’s Great Uncle (middle).