Threat to wildlife in focus as offshore drilling meetings continue

Environment America

WASHINGTON, DC– From spills soaking sea birds in oil, to seismic exploration putting whales and dolphins at risk, each stage of offshore drilling threatens precious Atlantic marine life, says an analysis from Environment America. The new document comes as federal officials vet their Atlantic Ocean drilling plan through informational meetings, including one yesterday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks that drew a record 670 people. 
“Drilling is tragic for marine life,” said Rachel Richardson, advocate with Environment America. “That’s true from the very beginning stages of oil exploration, to routine drilling and spilling, to a catastrophe the scale of the BP disaster.”
The exploration for oil and gas may threaten wildlife more than any other drilling activity. As many as 138,000 Atlantic whales and dolphins could be injured or killed by the use of seismic airguns, which create bursts of sound as loud as a jet engine that are audible for thousands of miles.
While the BP disaster killed tens of thousands of sea turtles, dolphins, and whales, and untold numbers of fish and shellfish, Environment America researchers also note the routine risks oil and gas rigs pose to marine life. One example: roughly 200,000 migratory birds, lured by light and the prospect of food, are burned, poisoned by oil or otherwise killed each year near drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
In January the Obama administration proposed opening up a huge swath of the southern Atlantic Coast, from Virginia to Georgia, to offshore drilling. Since then, federal officials have been holding informational meetings in coastal cities about their plan, in many cases drawing strong opposition.
Despite the off-season, elected officials, coastal businesses, anglers, and hundreds of others packed a meeting yesterday in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., shattering previous attendance records for Bureau of Ocean & Energy Management proceedings. Roughly 600 of the attendees were opposed to drilling, and were recruited by Surfrider, Environment America’s North Carolina affiliate, Sierra Club, Oceana, and others.
More meetings are planned along the Atlantic Coast in the coming weeks. Environment America and its allies will continue to attend in force, highlighting potential harm to ocean life and other dangers of drilling. 
“We saw how devastating the BP catastrophe was for sea animals,” said Richardson. “We need the Obama administration to say no to more drilling, and say yes to our treasured sea turtles, dolphins, and whales.”