Today, more than 100 marine scientists and conservation biologists sent a letter to President Obama and his administration urging them to “use the best available science before permitting seismic surveys for offshore oil and gas in the mid- and south Atlantic.”
The letter, which comes days before the Department of the Interior is expected to release its final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on seismic airgun testing off the East Coast, calls on the Obama administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Excerpt from the letter:
“It is essential to incorporate these guidelines into this PEIS in order to accurately estimate auditory injuries and disturbances to marine mammals from proposed seismic surveys, so that this important information can guide the most appropriate mitigation measures.
If the PEIS moves forward without the newly established acoustic guidelines it will be scientifically deficient and quickly outdated. It will fail to accurately assess the true scope of marine mammal impacts from proposed seismic surveys, which is a primary purpose of the PEIS. The mid- and south Atlantic is home to a diversity and abundance of marine mammals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale which could be impacted by proposed seismic survey activity. We implore you to take this opportunity to integrate NMFS’ new Marine Mammal Acoustic Guidelines into the PEIS for proposed seismic survey activity in the mid- and south Atlantic.”
The use of seismic airguns is currently being considered to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from Delaware to Florida.
Seismic airguns are towed behind ships and shoot extremely loud and repeated blasts of sound to search for buried oil and gas in the Earth’s crust. The dynamite-like blasts occur every ten seconds, for days to weeks at a time. The government itself expects this testing to possibly injure 138,500 marine mammals like dolphins and whales along the East Coast. Estimates include injury to nine critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide. New 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.
In September, Oceana 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 approximately 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 to stop seismic airguns, including an infographic and animation about how they work, please visit www.oceana.org/seismic.