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Oceana: Seismic Plan Threatens Marine Life

WASHINGTON – Environmental group Oceana released today maps that show what the organization calls the threat of seismic airgun blasting to marine life off the East Coast.

The maps depict the overlap of 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.

  Habitat areas overlap with the swath of the Atlantic currently being considered for seismic airgun blasting. Map: Oceana

 Habitat areas overlap with the swath of the Atlantic currently being considered for seismic airgun blasting. Map: Oceana

Despite the recent decision against allowing drilling off the East Coast, permitting for seismic testing was not called off.

“With offshore drilling off the table in the Atlantic, there is absolutely no reason to risk the damage that would be caused by unnecessary seismic airgun blasting in the region,” said Claire Douglass, campaign director at Oceana. She said the maps show that seismic tests could threaten coastal communities, economies, fisheries and marine mammals.

Oceana’s maps show fish habitat areas the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designated as necessary for the spawning, breeding, feeding and maturation of federally managed commercial and recreational fish stocks and critical habitat areas required for the conservation of threatened or endangered species.

“We know that the noise from seismic airguns is of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival,” said Dr. Ingrid Biedron, marine scientist at Oceana. “Numerous studies demonstrate the negative impacts that seismic airgun noise has on ocean ecosystems, including reduced catch rates of fish, stress response in crabs, decline in sperm whale feeding calls, and the silencing of bowhead whales. Documented impacts to bowhead whales, closely related to North Atlantic right whales, are especially alarming because the proposed seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic would take place in and around critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales, of which only about 500 remain, including the species’ only known calving ground.”

Last year, 75 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.”

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.