Today, a new bill was introduced in the Senate aimed at protecting the Atlantic Ocean from seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. The Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection (ASAP) Act, which is sponsored by New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, would create a moratorium on geological and geophysical activities related to oil and gas exploration along the East Coast.
While the Atlantic Ocean is currently safe from the threat of offshore drilling, seismic airgun blasting is still being pursued in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Oceana recently released a new set of maps that show the threat of seismic airgun blasting to important marine ecosystems off the East Coast. Specifically, the maps depict the overlap between current seismic airgun permit application areas in the Atlantic and known habitats for at-risk turtles, whales and sharks, as well as commercially and recreationally important fish species.
Oceana applauded the new bill and released the following statement from campaign director Claire Douglass:
“The Obama administration’s wise decision to protect the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling is jeopardized by its continued pursuit of seismic airgun blasting. The fight to protect the Atlantic is not over, and we applaud Sens. Booker and Menendez for their continued leadership to stop seismic airgun blasting. With offshore drilling off the table in the Atlantic, there is absolutely no reason to risk the damage that would be caused by seismic airgun blasting in the region. The noise from seismic airgun blasting is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas. In addition to being extremely loud, these blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation. Coastal communities remain united in their opposition to offshore drilling activities off our coast. As of today, 95 East Coast municipalities have publically opposed seismic airgun blasting, citing concerns to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. It’s time for President Obama to stop seismic airgun blasting and protect the more than 100,000 marine mammals currently in harm’s way. Instead of expanding our dependence on risky offshore drilling, we should rapidly develop clean energy solutions like offshore wind.”
Last year, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama on the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that “the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain.”