(The deadline for submitting comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service has been extended to July 21st.)
South Strand News
July 3, 2017
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As the July 6 deadline for comments about seismic testing for oil off the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. approaches, elected officials, business leaders, environmental organizations and concerned citizens are voicing their opposition.
Their main concerns include the impact to marine mammals and the economy of coastal states that rely on the ocean for tourism and fisheries. The Trump Administration has fast-tracked the permitting process for seismic testing and could approve permits, previously denied in January, any time after July 6. That is the end of a 30-day comment period offered the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first and continue implementing a plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come,” Trump’s executive order said.
According to reports, the oil and gas industry maintains that with 50 years of worldwide seismic testing, there is no evidence that it has had any significant effect on marine life. The seismic industry says it operates in an environmentally responsible manner.
But a recent study showed that airgun signals used in seismic surveys harm zooplankton, a vital marine food source species.
Exploration and drilling company executives have praised the order, according to a Post and Courier article.
“Opening more offshore areas for exploration would mean more jobs, new economic activity, increased energy security and the continued march toward U.S. energy dominance,” said Randall Luthi, president of the pro-drilling exploration National Ocean Industries Association.
Reps. John Rutherford (R-Florida, 4th District) and Don Beyer (D-Virgina, 8th District) sent a bipartisan letter signed by more than 100 members of Congress to Sec. Ryan Zinke, U.S. Department of the Interior, opposing seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast, according to a press release. The reasons listed are threats it poses to coastal communities, economies, fisheries and marine mammals.
“Along the Atlantic alone, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation,” the letter states.
Oceana Campaign Director Nancy Pyne released the following statement:
“Reps. Rutherford and Beyer should be applauded for their leadership in working to protect the Atlantic from loud and dangerous seismic airgun blasting,” said Nancy Pyne, campaign director at Oceana. “Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade noises in the ocean and are of special concern to marine life that depend on sound for communication and survival.”
She said the groundswell of opposition to these “dirty and dangerous activities” continues to grow every day.
“Currently, 126 East Coast municipalities, more than 1,200 local, state and federal officials, and an alliance representing over 41,000 businesses and 500,200 fishing families from Florida to Maine, publicly oppose seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling,” she said. “The risk to marine life, coastal communities and economies is just too great.”
Officials with the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast agreed.
“We are literally only months away from seismic airgun blasting of the Atlantic from Delaware down to Cape Canaveral, Florida,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the BAPAC. “This prelude to offshore drilling for oil in the Atlantic is a destructive process that we must slow down if not stop.”
“Commercial fish and invertebrates, marine mammals and sea turtles will be killed, harmed and harassed,” said Knapp. “And our local economies will lose revenue while the seismic companies make big profits from their oil company clients.”
According to a grassroots organization called Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, five seismic companies have asked the National Marine Fisheries Service for Incidental Hazard Authorizations to collectively test over 90,000 miles of seismic lines in the Atlantic and “incidentally take” hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins. “Incidentally Take” is defined as harass, injure or kill.
The group also distributed the following information about seismic testing:
- Seismic airguns blast every 10-15 seconds, 24 hrs/day for months
- Explosive sounds travel thousands of miles and can severely impact marine mammals, like whales, that rely heavily on their sense of sound to navigate, feed and communicate
- Seismic exploration has been attributed to 40-80 percent declines in local fish catches.
- Under water, there is no escaping the sound.
Anyone who would like to give input about this issue can address comments by the July 6 deadline to: Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be mailed to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Laws@noaa.gov.
Note: Comments should be limited to the impact of seismic testing on marine life. Comments for or against offshore drilling will not be considered and may invalidate submissions.