Trump’s Plan to Let Oil Companies Into the Atlantic Would Kill Thousands of Whales and Dolphins

by Olivia Smith

July 20, 2017

The Atlantic coast has been off limits to oil drilling for decades. Now, the Trump administration wants to change that.

Humpback Whale Breaches

A humpback whale breaches. Photo via Pixabay / Creative Commons.

The prestigious title of the loudest rock and roll show on record was unofficially awarded to The Who at a concert in London in 1976. Lead guitarist Pete Townshend blames his increasing hearing loss on repeated exposure to his own ear-splitting wall of sound.

That’s loud, but the volume of seismic airgun blasting being proposed for the Atlantic coast is louder. Peak sound pressures from seismic testing are comparable to a jet engine taking off. And because Atlantic wildlife lack access to earplugs, they will have no choice but to listen to this dangerous concert.

The Trump administration is pushing to allow these blasts in the Atlantic — something activists like you fought against and successfully stopped just last year. If Trump is successful , companies would be allowed to use these deafening seismic blasts to find oil and gas deposits miles underneath the Atlantic Ocean.

Our oceans are worth more than fossil fuel industry profits — here’s why we need to keep up the fight against seismic blasting.

Seismic testing is a blunt-force weapon. It involves air guns firing extremely powerful blasts of compressed air towards the seafloor to find and map offshore oil and gas reserves. These blasts happen every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for multiple weeks or even months at a time. The noise from the blasts are so loud that they can be heard from 2,500 miles away.

Seismic blasting can deafen marine animals, thus preventing some dolphin and whale species from communicating at all. Since their environments are usually very dark, the animals need to use echolocation to gather information about where they can find food. It also interrupts essential behaviors such as feeding and mating. NOAA scientists estimate that seismic blasting in the Atlantic would injure as many 138,000 whales and dolphins, including killing or injuring nine critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. The breeding grounds for this endangered species would be inside the proposed blast zone, significantly increasing the likelihood of extinction.

The blasts are also likely to have an effect on fishing and other activities essential to coastal economies. The sound produced by seismic blasting makes fish immediately leave the area, can kill fish eggs and larvae, and stunt the growth of young scallops.

And all that harm to ocean ecosystems only serves the end goal of drilling for oil and gas off our coasts. Offshore drilling itself can be catastrophic for marine life — and the economies of coastal towns — in the event of a spill. And if the history of the oil industry has taught us anything, it’s that there will be spills.

Oil companies might want to open the Atlantic Ocean to seismic blasting, but Americans from all walks of life do not.

Allowing seismic testing in the Atlantic would be a complete reversal from the Obama administration, which chose not to include the Atlantic in its offshore leasing program after an outcry from Atlantic communities and climate activists across the country. There is currently no offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast, and no surveys have been conducted in the region for at least 30 years. Bipartisan opposition to Trump’s plan suggests it should stay that way.

But the oil and gas industry has pushed for the surveys proposed by the Trump administration, which would map potential drilling sites from Delaware to central Florida. Allowing seismic airgun blasting would directly benefit five companies — Spectrum Geo Inc., TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, ION GeoVentures, WesternGeco, LLC and CGG) looking to survey the Atlantic — and open the door for fossil fuel companies to start drilling for oil we cannot afford to burn if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.

There are still a few more days to resist Trump’s reckless plans for seismic blasting in the Atlantic. Submit a public comment today to oppose this disastrous plan!

Olivia Smith

By Olivia Smith

Olivia Smith is the social media intern for Greenpeace USA, based in DC. She is a junior at Bard College, and is majoring in written arts with a double minor in human rights and gender studies. She is interested in environmental policy, renewable energy, and social justice.

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