Endangering marine ecosystems, U.S. government nears authorization of seismic blasting in Atlantic

Media Contacts
Kelsey Lamp

Director, Protect Our Oceans Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Environment America

WASHINGTON — Seismic testing for oil and gas drilling off of the United States’ Atlantic coast is just one step away after the Trump administration passed another hurdle in that process on Friday.

“When the administration proposed drilling off of 90 percent of America’s coasts, the public said ‘no way’,” said Environment America Oceans Associate Kelsey Lamp. “Yet it is feverishly pursuing seismic testing, which threatens marine wildlife — all for the pursuit of oil that we don’t need, as more people adopt clean energy.” 

Seismic testing uses air-gun blasts to search the ocean floor for fossil fuel deposits. Those blasts can travel thousands of miles and increase ocean noise 100-fold, disrupting the lives of — and even hurting — the animals that live there. If, as proposed, seismic blasting is allowed off of the coast from Delaware to central Florida, it would damage marine ecosystems and potentially endanger the North Atlantic right whale, whose population, according to recent reports, could be as low as 411.  

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued Incidental Hazard Authorizations (IHAs) to five companies that want to conduct seismic testing off the Atlantic coast. The IHAs constitute the second to last step in the process for permitting seismic testing for oil and gas drilling. If the Department of the Interior issues those permits as expected, the companies would be able to begin surveys at the end of April. 

“We need the administration to halt these plans ASAP. Given our clean energy alternatives, we need to embrace policies that are better for our coasts, better for marine ecosystems, and supported by the American public,” concluded Lamp.