Seismic Ocean Surveys & Drilling Could Harm Whales

June 5, 2017

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Photo Credit: ©NOAA

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed authorizing seismic oil and gas surveys along the east coast of the U.S. This comes as a result of the recent White House Executive Order to roll back a five-year ban on oil and gas leasing and drilling in these waters.

The proposal is drawing sharp criticism from scientists concerned about potential impacts to marine ecosystems and wildlife, specifically one highly endangered whale.

"The places now being considered as locations for seismic surveys—specifically in the mid- and southeastern Atlantic coastal areas—are also vital wintering and calving grounds and migration areas for the endangered North Atlantic right whale," said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS's Ocean Giants Program. "The sounds emitted from seismic airguns could disrupt essential communications between whales, and right whale mother-and-calf pairs would be especially at risk in and around important habitats where seismic surveys are planned."

There are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales left. They are protected in U.S. waters by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

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