On March 31, 2010 the Obama Administration announced it would open up large portions of the East Coast and Eastern Gulf Coasts to offshore oil drilling and exploration. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) will be holding meetings on to hear public testimony about the proposed seismic testing. Seismic testing represents the first step in offshore oil drilling. We need voices to speak up against this harmful process and stop momentum building for drilling. Offshore oil drilling is not the answer to our energy problems.
Seismic surveys are conducted to locate and estimate the size of an offshore oil reserve. In order to conduct surveys, ships use ‘airgun arrays’ to emit high‐decibel explosive impulses in order to map the seafloor. The noise from seismic surveys can damage or kill fish eggs and larvae and impair the hearing and health of fish, making them susceptible to predators and making it challenging for them to locate prey or mates or communicate with each other. These disturbances can disrupt important migratory patterns, forcing marine life away from suitable habitats meant for foraging and mating. In addition, seismic surveys have been implicated in whale beaching and stranding incidents.
Hearing Dates and Locations.
• April 21, 2010—Jacksonville Marriott, 4760 Salisbury Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32256; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST;
• April 23, 2010—Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm Street, Savannah,
Georgia 31401; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST
• April 27, 2010—Sheraton Newark Airport Hotel, 128 Frontage Road,
Newark, New Jersey 07114; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m.
EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m.
• April 27, 2010—Embassy Suites North Charleston, 5055 International
Boulevard, North Charleston, South Carolina 29418; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST;
• April 29, 2010—Hilton Wilmington Riverside, 301 North Water Street,
Wilmington, North Carolina 28401; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST; and
• April 29, 2010—Hilton Norfolk Airport, 1500 N. Military Highway, Norfolk, Virginia 23502; two meetings, the first beginning at 1 p.m. EST and the second beginning at 7 p.m. EST
Talking Points for the Seismic Testing Public Hearings.
Testing and Surveys Will Cause Widespread Impacts off Our Coasts
Ø We are concerned about seismic surveys not simply because they represent the first step in offshore oil development – but because the powerful airguns used in these surveys themselves have enormous environmental impacts on our oceans, on both marine mammals (including endangered whales) and commercial fisheries off our coasts.
Ø Industry has already applied to MMS to run hundreds of thousands of miles of airgun surveys off the east coast. These surveys would blast high-intensity sound into the water every few seconds for months on end – resulting in what Dr. Christopher Clark, the director of Cornell’s Bioacoustics Research Program, has called “the most intrusive form of man-made undersea noise short of actual naval warfare.”
Ø Airgun surveys are known to significantly disrupt endangered species of whales and commercial fisheries on a massive scale. For example:
• A single airgun array off the northeast coast caused endangered fin and humpback whales to stop singing – a behavior essential to their mating and foraging – over an area at least as large as New Mexico (100,000 square nautical miles) and possibly as large as Alaska (800,000 square nautical miles).
• Whales depend on sound for their survival – but airgun noise is loud enough to mask their calls over literally thousands of miles, destroying their capacity to communicate and breed. The latest science from NOAA and Cornell shows that endangered North Atlantic right whales – which calve off the coast of Georgia and Florida – are extremely vulnerable.
• Airguns have been shown to drive away a wide range of marine mammals, from great baleen whales to harbor porpoises, and they have been implicated in the long-term loss of marine mammal biodiversity off the coast of Brazil.
• Airguns also affect fish behavior and fisheries on a broad scale: airguns have been shown to dramatically depress catch rates of various commercial species (including cod, haddock, and rockfish) over thousands of square kilometers, leading fishermen in Norway and other parts of the world to seek industry compensation for their losses.
Ø There is broad scientific agreement that MMS’ current measures to reduce harm from airguns are woefully inadequate. Instead, MMS must keep airguns out of sensitive environmental areas and promote use of greener alternatives to airguns. According to industry experts, green technologies that would substantially cut the environmental footprint of airguns in many areas can be available for commercial use in 3-5 years or less – if MMS requires it.