OCEAN CITY, MD, Aug. 2, 2016 – Today, legislators from Delaware and Maryland called on the White House to prevent seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the seafloor. In the two letters addressed to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, over 40 local and state elected officials from each state warned of the unnecessary risks offshore oil and gas exploration could pose to marine life, coastal communities, and local economies.

Although the Atlantic Ocean is temporarily safe from the threat of offshore drilling, seismic airgun blasting is still being pursued in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida, leading to growing opposition along the East Coast. Just last month, 70 state legislators from the Carolinas and Georgia sent a letter to Secretary Jewell urging the Obama administration to reject these permit applications. In early July, 15 coastal mayors in South Carolina made headlines when they sent another letter to President Obama urging him to oppose seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, legislation aimed at protecting the Atlantic from such activities has been introduced recently in Congress. 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.

“We have been working to protect our coast from oil and gas development for a long time now,” said Diane Hanson, Mayor of Dewey Beach, Delaware and one of the lead signers on the letter from Delaware legislators. “Our beaches are world-renowned tourist destinations. We proudly cater to millions of visitors each year and contribute over a billion dollars to Delaware’s economy. Here in Dewey Beach, we understand the importance of protecting and preserving the health of the ocean, which is why we, along with 6 other Delaware towns and over 100 in East Coast states, passed a resolution formally opposing oil and gas development in the Atlantic. This, in addition to over 40 legislators on this letter in Delaware alone, will surely be heard and acknowledged by those in Washington who are deciding whether or not to blast our coast.”

To date, more than 110 East Coast municipalities, over 1,000 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 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.

“The County Council of Montgomery County, Maryland passed a resolution opposing both offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting in March of this year,” said Tom Hucker, a former Maryland State Delegate and current Montgomery County Council Member. “We looked at what was happening with the permitting, and realized how hard coastal communities we were working to protect their way of life, and realized that passing our own resolution could help and was simply the right thing to do. This is a time when leaders and citizens from all corners of Maryland need to stand with our coastal communities and fight for a cleaner, more sustainable future for our state. Our hope is that this letter has the same kind of impact on a greater scale.”

Earlier this year, Oceana released a set of maps that show the threat of seismic airgun blasting to important marine habitats off the East Coast. Specifically, the maps depict the overlap between current seismic airgun permit application areas in the Atlantic and known habitats for at-risk turtles, whales and sharks, as well as commercially and recreationally important fish species. When the maps were released, 36 commercial and recreational fishing interests in the Mid-Atlantic also sent a letter to the governors of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia expressing their concerns with seismic airgun blasting, which they say “could disrupt the spawning, feeding and migration patterns that support our fisheries and replenish fish populations from year to year.”  Since then, more fishing interests have spoken out on the issue, including the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which has members in eight states in the Southeast.

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.”

“I’ve lived in the Mid-Atlantic nearly my entire life,” said Caroline Wood, Mid-Atlantic Organizer with Oceana. “Coastal communities, coastal residents, scientists, businesses, and even land-locked communities like Montgomery County, Maryland and Milton, Delaware – who understand the importance of protecting our Atlantic Coast for generations to come – could not be moreclear when it comes to oil and gas development: we don’t want it. From marine mammals like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, to important fish populations, to oysters, sea turtles, and crabs, seismic airguns pose far too great of a threat, especially when their only purpose is to locate oil and gas deposits. Our region has already said no to offshore drilling, and the administration listened. It’s time for President Obama to listen again, to read these letters, to pay attention to coastal communities and prevent seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic.”

To view the letter from Maryland legislators, please click here.

To view the letter from Delaware legislators, please click here.

To learn more about the growing opposition to seismic airgun blasting, please click here.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With over 100 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.