Bipartisan Group of State Legislators from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia Urge White House to Prevent Seismic Airgun Blasting

Bipartisan Group of State Legislators from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia Urge White House to Prevent Seismic Airgun Blasting

By / State News / Wednesday, 27 July 2016 04:00

SOUTHPORT, N.C. - Today a bipartisan group of state elected officials from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia called on the White House to prevent seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, 69 state elected officials warned of the unnecessary and risky threats of offshore drilling exploration to marine life, coastal communities and local economies.
 Although the Atlantic Ocean is temporarily 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, leading to growing opposition along the East Coast. In early July, 15 coastal mayors in South Carolina made headlines when they sent a letter to President Obama urging him to oppose seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. New legislation has also been introduced in Congress aimed at protecting the Atlantic from such activities. The Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection (ASAP) Act, which is led by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate and Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) in the House, would establish a moratorium on geological and geophysical activities related to dangerous oil and gas exploration along the East Coast.
“The Obama administration’s responsible decision to protect the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling is jeopardized by its continued pursuit of seismic airgun blasting,” said Randy Sturgill, campaign organizer at Oceana. “The fight to protect the Atlantic is not over, and we applaud all of these leaders for standing up to protect their coast, their constituents and their communities. If seismic airgun blasting is allowed to move forward, it would undoubtedly put at risk marine life, coastal communities and local economies along the entire East Coast. 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.”
 Earlier this year, Oceana released a set of maps that show the threat of seismic airgun blasting to important marine habitats 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. When the maps were released, 36 commercial and recreational fishing interests in the Mid-Atlantic sent a letter to the governors of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia expressing their concerns with seismic airgun blasting, which they say “could disrupt the spawning, feeding and migration patterns that support our fisheries and replenish fish populations from year to year.”  Since then, more fishing interests have spoken out on the issue, including the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which has members in eight states in the South.
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.”  
“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, DC to Las Vegas,” said Sturgill. “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. Numerous studies demonstrate the negative impacts that seismic airgun noise has on ocean ecosystems, including reduced catch rates for fish and the silencing of whales.”
To date, more than 110 East Coast municipalities including Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and the City of Wilmington, with more than 1,000 elected officials, roughly 1,100 business interests including 25 business associations and chambers of commerce, and fishing interests such as the  Mid- and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, The Billfish Foundation, The International Game Fish Association and the Southeastern Fisheries Association, have all publically opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun use. Each has cited threats to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. 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.
To learn more about the growing opposition to seismic airgun blasting, please visit www.oceana.org

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