Target: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
Goal: Protect marine animals from dangerous seismic testing used to discover oil and natural gas deposits along the Atlantic Coast
The Obama administration is considering whether to allow seismic testing of the sea floor along the mid-Atlantic coast, from Delaware to central Florida, to expand the U.S. offshore energy program. The current ban on Atlantic offshore drilling was put into place in the 1980s but will be lifted in 2017, and oil and gas companies are eager to cash in. Seismic surveying of the ocean bottom includes air gun testing. Gun blasts, stronger than a jet plane engine, will occur approximately every ten seconds for weeks or months at a time. Researchers estimate that roughly 138,000 whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine animals will be injured or killed, and over 13 million may have their migration, feeding or other behavioral patterns disrupted by the surveys.
To conduct seismic surveys, companies will direct blasts at the ocean floor to detect oil and gas deposits, which will stun and possibly deafen marine mammals. Temporary or permanent hearing loss will have a devastating impact on whales and dolphins, who rely on sound waves and echolocation to communicate and travel. Air guns can disturb marine mammal behavior over 100 miles away.
When Interior Secretary Jewell was appointed last year, she vowed to keep Atlantic waters free of seismic testing. Since that time, Atlantic coast governors and oil and gas industry leaders have exerted pressure on her to reverse that position. Recently, Secretary Sally Jewell met with a group of governors who have formed a coalition to promote Atlantic offshore drilling. Next month, it is expected that Secretary Jewell will grant a final approval for seismic testing to begin in the near future.
Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry and a number of politicians have conspired to influence the Department of the Interior’s final decision. Those who care deeply about marine animals and their environment must make their voices heard by sending a powerful message to Secretary Jewell before she makes her final decision.
Dear U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell,
Seismic testing along the Atlantic coastline will have a profoundly negative impact on marine animals and their delicate ecosystems. The Bureau of Energy Management has estimated that 138,000 marine animals could be harmed or killed, and over 13 million could have their migration, feeding or other behavioral patterns disrupted.
North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species numbering fewer than 500, migrate twice yearly within the survey region, and proposed closures during migration do not take into account how far offshore they travel. Humpback whales, killer whales, sperm whales and short-finned whales in this area all use low frequency sounds. Atlantic spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins are especially sensitive to the higher frequencies produced when air guns blast. Florida’s beaches are home to ninety percent of the world’s loggerhead turtle nesting sites. Seismic testing would also affect commercial fisheries as far north as New England. Wahoo, swordfish and billfishes embark on long-distance migrations and could be scared away from their current locations, yet the environmental review offers no specific measures to deal with this, other than slowly ramping up sound levels during surveys.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is poised to publish the findings of its 15-year study, which gathered information on how marine mammals are disturbed and damaged by sound. Awarding final approval for seismic testing before this information is released would be reckless. I urge you to give as much consideration to the welfare of marine animals as you are giving to the oil and gas industry and governors who are lobbying for offshore drilling.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources via Wikipedia