WASHINGTON – Actor and ocean activist Reid Scott will be in Washington, D.C. on May 29 to urge Congress and the Obama administration to reconsider its proposed use of seismic airguns to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Scott, who is currently appearing in season three of HBO’s Emmy-winning comedy series “VEEP,” will be joined by other experts to discuss the risks associated with this controversial technology, including the threat to fisheries, local economies and marine mammals like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
WHO: Reid Scott, Actor and Ocean Activist
Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., New Jersey’s 6th District – Invited
Jacqueline Savitz, Vice President, U.S. Oceans, Oceana
State Rep. Pricey Harrison, North Carolina’s 57th District
Dr. Douglas Nowacek, Associate Professor, Duke University Marine Laboratory
WHEN: Thursday, May 29, 2014 from 1-2 p.m.
WHERE: 2168 Rayburn House Office Building (Gold Room)
Recently, more than 110 local elected officials, over 160 conservation and animal welfare organizations, as well as The Billfish Foundation and The International Game Fish Association, have joined the mounting opposition against seismic airgun use along the East Coast. Fourteen coastal towns have also passed local resolutions opposing or voicing concern with their use (Cape Canaveral, FL, Cocoa Beach, FL, St. Augustine, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Manteo, NC, Nags Head, NC, Oak Island, NC, Southport, NC, St. James, NC, Topsail Beach, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ).
Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, each 100,000 times more intense than what one would experience if standing near a jet engine. The dynamite-like blasts occur every 10 seconds, for days to weeks at a time. Seismic airguns are loud enough to kill small organisms like fish eggs and larvae at close ranges and can disrupt the behavior of large animals like whales and dolphins from up to 100 miles away.
Impacts to marine mammals from seismic airgun blasts can include temporary or permanent hearing loss, disruption of vital behaviors like communicating, feeding, mating, calving and migrating, and masking of biologically important sounds. According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), these dynamite-like blasts could injure and possibly kill up to 138,200 marine mammals, while disrupting the necessary activities of millions more.
One species of particular concern is the North Atlantic right whale, the rarest large whale species, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide. Acoustic data from Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program recently found that right whales off the Virginia coast are in the path of proposed seismic airgun use.
An Oceana report released last year outlines the threats of seismic airgun use and offshore drilling to marine life and coastal economies along the East Coast, including the potential danger to commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as tourism and coastal recreation, which puts more than 730,000 jobs at risk in the blast zone.
In February, more than 100 scientists called on President Obama and his administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service. These guidelines are 15 years in the making and aim to provide a better understanding of how marine mammals are impacted by varying levels of manmade sound as well as demonstrate the measures that are needed to protect them. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and eight additional U.S. senators also sent a letter to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to hold off on issuing the recent administrative decision until all of the best available science, including these new acoustic guidelines, could be incorporated.
In comments to DOI, Oceana has argued that the federal government has not developed adequate closure areas to protect the migratory corridor and nursery of the right whale and has failed to fully consider safer alternative technologies such as marine vibroseis, which is quieter than seismic airguns and may be less harmful to marine mammals.
Oceana has also delivered more than 100,000 petitions opposing seismic airguns to the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, as well as more than 50 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, also called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns last year.
For more information about Oceana’s efforts, please visit www.Oceana.org/Seismic.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.