Environmental Groups Seek To Block Seismic Testing in the Atlantic

A North Atlantic right whale swims with her calf near the Florida/Georgia border where whales come every year to give birth.  Photo: Associated Press

As part of their challenge to bar the government from drilling for oil and gas off the southeastern coast, a coalition of environmental groups asked a federal judge in South Carolina to force the government to suspend seismic airgun blast testing, which are used to deposits of oil and gas under the sea floor, until the case can be fully heard in court.  They are challenging the government’s permits, which would allow for the drilling to harm and even possibly kill of a number of marine mammals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, which is on the verge of extinction.

In a statement, the groups allege a number of specific and serious harms caused by the testing, including that:

  • The blasting ships would “concentrate their fire” on the world’s densest population of acoustically sensitive beaked whales off North Carolina’s Outer Banks
  • Dolphins, whales and other animals could endure five million blasts as these companies seek offshore oil and gas deposits.
  • The blasts will happen approximately every 10 seconds for weeks or months at a time.
  • The government failed to consider the combined effects of overlapping and simultaneous surveys, which are greater than the effects of individual seismic-blasting boats.
  • The government erroneously determined that only a “small number” of whales and dolphins would be harmed.

According to Georgia Public Radio News, the federal government could begin issuing permits for seismic testing in March. “This important issue deserves a fair day in court. We can’t let this dangerous activity cause a species to go extinct just so the oil industry can open our oceans to offshore drilling. Up and down the Atlantic coast, businesses, communities and bipartisan elected officials are overwhelmingly opposed to seismic airgun blasting. Every East Coast governor and over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the blast zone are opposed to opening our coast to drilling – this is states versus President Trump,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “We are going to do everything in our power to stop this unlawful, irreparable and needless harm.”

This is part of a pattern of disregard for the marine environment by the Trump Administration.  Another coalition of conservation groups yesterday sued several Federal agencies because they missed deadlines to list the Gulf of Mexico whale, a subspecies of the Bryde’s whale, as an endangered species, when there are fewer than fifty of this species of whales left.

Why This Matters:  Let’s start with the most acute problem — there are only about 400 right whales remaining in the Atlantic and thus any harm to this species caused by the airgun blasts could have dire consequences.   Especially now, when several new right whale calves have recently been spotted off the coast there.  Moreover, sixteen South Carolina coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce are also part of the lawsuit to prevent seismic blasting, and a bi-partisan group of ten East Coast attorneys general, including South Carolina’s Alan Wilson, have joined it as well.  Even in the heart of Trump country, drilling for oil and gas off the southeastern coast remains highly unpopular.

Up Next

China’s Illegal Fishing Fleet In GhanaIs Is Rife With Abuses

A new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation exposes the horrific conditions that Ghanain fishermen face on Chinese-owned industrial trawlers. This capture of the country’s fishing industry flies in the face of Ghanian laws that forbid foreign ownership or control of ships flying its flag. It also makes illegal fishing much harder to trace and regulate.  

Why This Matters: It’s impossible to have sustainable fisheries when as much as half of the global catch is illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU).

Continue Reading 454 words
Scientist Discovers California’s Offshore DDT Mess

Scientist Discovers California’s Offshore DDT Mess

Using underwater robots that can travel more than half a mile down, a research team from the University of California at Santa Barbara recently uncovered new evidence on the ocean floor of thousands of drums full of the notorious pesticide DDT, which has been banned in the U.S. for decades.

Why This Matters:  Xia’s top-notch reporting reveals that there could be half a million barrels of DDT on the ocean floor — still contaminating marine life.

Continue Reading 609 words
Proposed MPAs in Antarctica Would Bring World Closer to 30×30 Goal

Proposed MPAs in Antarctica Would Bring World Closer to 30×30 Goal

An alliance of conservation groups has combined forces to advocate at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which manages the ocean around Antarctica, in favor of creating at its virtual meeting this year a trio of marine protected areas (MPAs) covering 1.5 million square miles, or 1% of the world’s ocean. 

Why this Matters:  The Southern Ocean is vital in regulating the world’s climate — its “conveyer belt” of currents keep Antarctica cold while keeping the rest of the world warm.

Continue Reading 548 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.