SOURCE: NPR

DATE: November 30, 2018

SNIP: The Trump administration has authorized five companies to “incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals” by using seismic air guns to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The ocean is a world of sound. Marine mammals and many other species rely on their hearing to feed, find mates, avoid predators, maintain bonds between mothers and calves – to do, in short, virtually everything they must to survive and reproduce in the wild,” said Michael Jasny, the director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “In this environment so dependent on sound, seismic blasting is an assault.”

Companies want to use the blasts of compressed air to map underwater geology and search for oil and gas reserves. If approved by BOEM, it would happen over a large area off the central and southern East Coast.

John Filostrat, a spokesperson for BOEM, said that the bureau “will complete its environmental review per the National Environmental Policy Act and determine whether to approve the permit applications.” He added that this will happen in the “near future.”

There’s growing evidence that these sounds may seriously affect animals swimming well outside the immediate danger zone.

The sounds could also impact how animals communicate by drowning out their sounds to each other. It’s not just marine mammals impacted – other research suggests that the sounds could harm smaller creatures important to the ecosystem, such as plankton.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association, praised the decision. It said in a statement that the surveys must happen so the companies “can make the discoveries of resources that our economy will need for decades to come,” and added that it was hopeful this could lead to a full offshore leasing plan in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.