Defenders of ocean habitats and marine life are up in arms on Friday as the Trump administration is set to approve new abilities for the fossil fuel industry to conduct widescale and “deafening” underwater seismic in federal waters off the U.S. Atlantic coast.
The decision is expected to come from the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, but conservation groups say it is a smack in the face to ocean ecosystems and a political nonstarter they vow to fight tooth and nail.
“This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “These permits were already denied because of the known harm that seismic airgun blasting causes. President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale – all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil. This is the first step toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic and we’re going to make sure coastal communities know what’s happening and fight this.”
Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC, said the president’s action is totally detached from the reality of the threats the world’s ecosytems now face.
“Just one week after issuing dire warnings on the catastrophic fallout of climate change to come, the Trump Administration is opening our coastlines to for-profit companies to prospect for oil and gas—and is willing to sacrifice marine life, our coastal communities and fisheries in the process,” fumed Jasny. “This is the first step towards drilling and scientists warn that seismic activity alone could drive the endangered North American right whale to extinction. We’ll stand with citizens, coastal businesses, scientists, lawmakers, and commercial and recreational fishermen who oppose seismic blasting, and we will fight this illegal action.”
According to the Washington Post:
“Seismic blasting is a violent, destructive precursor to unnecessary offshore oil drilling,” said Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation Legal Director, in a statement. “According to estimates from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the seismic exploration projects could directly harm tens of thousands of whales and dolphins, in addition to thousands of manatees, seals, and sea turtles. This type of damage to our coastal resources is unacceptable. The Surfrider Foundation and our strong coalition of allies will stand up to protect our ocean, waves and beaches for the future.”
While the seismic blasting is awful enough, Earthjustice warns that this is only a part of the Trump adminstration’s assault on the oceans and marine life. As the group notes:
“As usual, the Trump administration is pulling out all the stops to give favors to the fossil fuel industry, whatever the cost to coastal communities and wildlife,” said Athan Manuel, the lands protection program director for the Sierra Club. “We will continue to fight back against their dangerous plans to subject our coasts to seismic blasting and expanded offshore drilling.”