WASHINGTON August 24, 2016 – Today, Oceana released new animated maps showing dolphins and whales threatened by proposed seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. The maps, which are based on groundbreaking research from Duke University’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, draw from 23 years of data to show us the density of bottlenose dolphins, and endangered fin, humpback and sperm whales overlaid with the current seismic airgun permit application area, over the course of a year. VIEW ANIMATED MAPS
Despite the recent decision to protect the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling, seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor, is still being pursued in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. According to government estimates, seismic airgun blasting could injure as many as 138,000 whales and dolphins, while disturbing millions more.
“These maps confirm what we’ve long feared, that dolphins and whales along the East Coast are at risk from dangerous seismic airgun blasting for oil and gas,” said Claire Douglass, campaign director at Oceana. “Hearing that whales and dolphins could be injured is one thing, but seeing the scale of the threat is another. President Obama should stop seismic airgun blasting and protect our coast.”
In recent months, opposition to seismic airgun blasting has continued to grow. New bipartisan letters from more than 150 state representatives in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia were recently sent to President Obama urging him to oppose these activities in the Atlantic Ocean. In early July, 15 coastal mayors in South Carolina made headlines when they sent a similar letter to the Obama administration. New legislation has also been introduced in Congress aimed at protecting the Atlantic from such activities. The Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection (ASAP) Act, which is led by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate and Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) in the House, would establish a moratorium on geological and geophysical activities related to dangerous oil and gas exploration along the East Coast.
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“We already know that the noise from seismic airguns is especially concerning for marine life, including fish, turtles, whales and dolphins, which depend on sound for communication and survival,” said Dr. Ingrid Biedron, marine scientist at Oceana. “The noise from these blasts is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, which is approximately the distance from Washington, DC to Las Vegas. These animated maps clearly show that marine life, including dolphins and whales, would be profoundly impacted by the proposed seismic blasting.”
Last year, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama on the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that “the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain.”
To date, more than 115 East Coast municipalities, over 1,100 elected officials, roughly 1,100 business interests, including 25 business associations and chambers of commerce, and fishing interests such as the Mid- and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, The Billfish Foundation, The International Game Fish Association, the Southern Shrimp Alliance and the Southeastern Fisheries Association, have all publically opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun use. Each has cited threats to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation.