The Trump administration is allowing seismic testing for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean, disruptive procedures that will put marine life in jeopardy, according to Newsweek. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) said it had issued five “Incidental Harassment Authorizations” for seismic testing, giving companies a pass on harming wildlife “if it’s unintentional.”
The testing will occur along the east coast between Delaware and Florida. The procedure helps map the ocean floor to find oil and gas, but involves blasts equivalent to dynamite every 10 seconds, continuing for weeks or months at a time. Such loud noises can kill invertebrates directly, while disrupting the survival of other marine life.
Such loud noise interferes with their ability to find food, avoid predators, and mate. Many are already threatened.
“Scientists warn that seismic activity alone could drive the endangered North Atlantic right whale to extinction,” said Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the National Resource Defense Council.
There are only around 400 Atlantic right whales left, after 20 died in 2016 and 2017, making them among the rarest marine mammals in the world.
“This is a license for private, for-profit companies to maim and even kill fragile marine life,” he says. “And it’s the first step in exploiting the ocean treasures we all own—all in a reckless quest for more fossil fuels that speed up climate change.”
Just one week ago, the administration released a US Geological Survey report showing that the removal and burning of fossil fuels from federal land accounted for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions between 2004 and 2014.
The testing could lead to the first exploratory drilling in the area in over 50 years. Beyond environmental concerns, drilling can affect commercial fisheries and beach tourism.
“There is nothing this administration won’t do for the fossil fuel industry, including destroying local economies and ruining endangered species habitats,” said Arizona representative Raúl M. Grijalva.
The move was praised by industry groups. The American Petroleum Institute said in a statement Friday:
“The U.S. needs to know what energy resources exist off of our shores and we are hopeful that permits for surveying for offshore oil and natural gas and a full national offshore leasing plan to explore and develop the outer continental shelf will move forward soon.”