By Jacob Oblander, SRK Outreach Coordinator
With little warning last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service released Incidental Harassment Authorizations for five different private companies to conduct Seismic Surveys along the Atlantic Coast, which means they can “incidentally but not intentionally harass marine mammals” while conducting surveys for fossil fuels in the seabed.
This survey process involves seismic blasting, a way of using powerful airguns to blast underwater at 10-second intervals, measuring the echoes off the seafloor to help map offshore oil and natural gas fields. And it's more than just a little noise. Seismic blasting has been shown to drive marine species away from an area, and do damage to those that stay in its path. Serious issues arise when there is repeated blasting, not just by one company but by five different companies. Repeatedly testing the same zones can cause animals to permanently vacate an area, mating and feeding can be disrupted, and there have even been instances of whales beaching themselves to escape the blasts.
You might be thinking that the plight of dolphins, whales, and other sea creatures being bombarded with sound from air guns is sad for them, but it won’t affect you. But, that’s not exactly how marine and coastal biology works. For better or worse, it’s all connected. Our local tourism and commercial fishing industries rely on a functioning ecosystem to thrive. With the possibility of seismic blasting coming closer, we could see major damage to or the loss of coastal fisheries that we all cherish and enjoy as both anglers and consumers. We’ve seen in other areas and through extensive research that this type of testing crashes fisheries by driving away high-level predators and the smaller organisms that start the whole food chain, like shrimp and plankton.
The outcry to stop this kind of damaging practice has been overwhelming, with thousands of local business, commercial fisherman, citizens, and municipalities speaking out to protect our coasts and way of life.
What can you do? Click here to send an email letting your member of Congress know you need them to stand up for the coast and protect marine life. They should be fighting to stop these heinous practices that threaten our daily lives and the food on our plates.