Today, Kure Beach will hold a town council meeting to discuss the proposed use of seismic airguns, which are 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.
The issue of seismic airgun testing came to the forefront of regional news last month after Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth sent a letter supporting its use to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management without soliciting public input on the matter. The letter, reportedly written by America’s Energy Forum, an oil and gas lobbying group sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, voiced support for seismic airgun testing as well as the exploration of offshore oil and gas development.
Seismic airguns shoot extremely loud and repeated blasts of sound, each 100,000 times more intense than what one would experience if standing near a jet engine. The government itself expects this testing to injure 138,500 marine mammals like dolphins and whales along the East Coast, with some of them possibly being killed. Estimates include injury to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide.
Below is a statement from Oceana campaign organizer and local North Carolina resident Randy Sturgill:
“Today, Kure Beach residents will finally get a chance to voice their concerns about using seismic airguns off our beaches. The Mayor should have consulted more with his constituents and less with the American Petroleum Institute and its partners. Seismic testing and offshore oil production will destroy the fabric of Kure Beach and other coastal towns, and only Big Oil will benefit.
These are the same people that told us offshore drilling was safe before the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and now they’re telling us that seismic airguns will not impact marine life and coastal economies. But the government’s own estimates, not Oceana’s, show that such testing will injure and possibly kill as many as 138,500 dolphins, whales and other marine mammals.
Seismic airguns emit one of the loudest man-made sounds in the oceans. To this day, we’re still learning about their true impact, including how far their sound travels and how they impact marine animals, especially when they occur repeatedly for weeks on end. These blasts will go on and on even when marine mammals are present because only limited visual monitoring is required. However, just because you can’t see a dolphin or whale doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
We would never allow such harmful testing to occur on land in our backyards or near endangered species, so why would we allow it in the water? The waters off the coast of North Carolina are home to a wide diversity of wildlife that deserves protection, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, the most endangered whale in the ocean. For right whales, the impacts of repeated seismic airgun blasts would be like driving the remaining American bison out of Yellowstone National Park with military artillery.
We have seen the impact that the search for offshore oil and gas has had off the coasts of Namibia, Australia and Madagascar, causing declines in tuna catch, decreasing productivity for the scallop fishery and scaring melon-headed whales into a shallow lagoon where they later died.
Seismic airguns are loud enough to kill fish eggs and larvae and to scare fish away from important fishing grounds. In fact, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council called on President Obama to prohibit the use of seismic airguns in the Atlantic last year.
Mayor Lambeth and the oil and gas industry cannot guarantee us that the people of Kure Beach will benefit from seismic airgun testing or future offshore drilling. That’s because the risks are so great to our fisheries and tourism economy that most likely, we won’t benefit. Only Big Oil will benefit, which explains their effort to coax local mayors into engaging on their behalf. If we like our coastal fisheries and tourism economies, seismic airguns and drilling off North Carolina must be stopped.”
In September, Oceana delivered more than 100,000 petitions opposing seismic airguns to Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Fifty members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have also called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns.
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.