No seismic blasting off East Coast — for now

Obama denies six fossil fuel exploration permits

dolphins Deepwater Horizon spill
The Obama administration has blocked the use of seismic blasting along the Atlantic Coast, helping to protect marine mammals and other ocean animals from harmful noise pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ocean animals along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. will remain safe from excessive noise pollution at least for the foreseeable future, as President Obama last week moved to deny six permit applications for oil and gas exploration from Florida to Delaware — including requests to use intrusive seismic blasting.

The administration had previously blocked leasing in the area through 2022. The latest decision was greeted with relief by conservation advocates. Obama also recently permanently withdrew 31 canyons in the Atlantic from future oil and gas leasing.

“Without a doubt, this decision will save whales, dolphins and other animals from suffering painful hearing loss and other damage inflicted by these terrible blasts of noise,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “And it’s yet another important signal to the oil industry that the Atlantic is closed for business.”

Seismic exploration surveys use high-powered airguns to search for oil and generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean, short of explosives. The blasts, which can reach more than 250 decibels, can cause hearing loss in marine mammals, disturb essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding over vast distances, mask communications between individual whales and dolphins, and reduce catch rates of commercial fish.

“Sonic blasting causes tremendous harm to endangered whales and fish,” said Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a leading expert on the environmental impacts of ocean noise. “That’s why scientists, lawmakers from both parties, commercial and recreational fishermen, nearly a hundred communities and tens of thousands of coastal businesses strongly oppose it.  Today’s announcement protects these waters, and all they support, from needless harm through reckless industrial practice.”

 

 

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