The Obama administration is called on to curb ongoing energy work in the Atlantic Ocean because of threats to aquatic animals. Photo by Victoria Lipov/Shutterstock
WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- An advocacy group called on the U.S. government to enact further restrictions on Atlantic Ocean energy work, citing seismic threats to marine animals.
Oceana published new mapping data in coordination with the Duke University Marine Geospatial Ecology lab that show marine mammals inhabit areas were some companies are conducting seismic tests to investigate the oil and gas potential in the Atlantic Ocean.
"These maps confirm what we've long feared, that dolphins and whales along the East Coast are at risk from dangerous seismic airgun blasting for oil and gas," Claire Douglass, a campaign director for Oceana, said in an emailed statement. "President Obama should stop seismic airgun blasting and protect our coast."
The Interior Department revised a lease plan through 2022 to include 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three for offshore Alaska. Initial considerations for lease sales in the Atlantic were removed because of "current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses," the department said.
The U.S. Defense Department said there may be areas in the original proposal for the Atlantic that may not be compatible with defense operations and interests. Environmental groups, local and state officials up and down the eastern coast, for their part, had expressed strong opposition to the plans, saying the ecosystem and tourism industry may be threatened by oil and gas drilling.
Oceana estimates around 1.4 million jobs and $95 billion in gross domestic product may depend on fishing, tourism and recreation along the Atlantic coast. For fish and other marine species, the group said the sound from seismic research interferes with normal communication patterns those species use. As many as 138,000 whales and dolphins are under direct threat, the group said.
Nikki Martin, the president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, said in response to email questions that, from its perspective, the impacts of seismic activity are temporary. If disruptions do occur, she said they have little to no significant consequence for marine species.
"Nevertheless, the industry funds independent research to further our understanding of potential effects of seismic surveys on marine life," she said. "Additionally, we support implementation of effective mitigation measures that are appropriate to the level of potential risk and specific to the local population of marine animals."