Nov. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Donald Trump has reportedly okayed the applications of several oil and gas companies looking to prospect in the Atlantic Ocean. The prospecting process involves seismic blasts that environmental groups say will harm whales and dolphins.
The National Marine Fisheries Service will soon grant "incidental harassment authorizations" to a handful of applicants, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The authorizations, approved by Trump, will allow oil and gas prospectors to disturb federally protected animals during their search for oil and gas.
Air blasts, sent once every few seconds for weeks at a time, are used to map the contours of the Atlantic seafloor and locate potential drilling targets.
Both environmental groups and politicians quickly criticized the president's decision.
"Seismic testing risks injuring and killing critically endangered species, severely disrupting economically important fisheries, and threatening the Jersey shore," Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., said in a news release. "An environmentally sound coast is critical to New Jersey's economy and it is very possible that seismic testing could lead to oil and gas drilling off our coast -- threatening public health, coastal communities, and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Members from both sides of the aisle will work tirelessly to fight this reckless decision by the Trump administration."
Environmental activists argue the seismic blasts will harm already vulnerable marine mammals, including blue whales, right whales and others.
Previous research efforts have shown seismic blasts can disrupt whales' navigation and communication abilities, as well as their feeding and mating behaviors.
"This is a license for private, for-profit companies to maim and even kill fragile marine life," Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Marine Mammal Protection Project, said in a news release. "And it's the first step in exploiting the ocean treasures we all own -- all in a reckless quest for more fossil fuels that speed up climate change."
Climate activists said the decisions is not only a threat to marine mammals, but also to the cause of slowing global warming.
"This is exactly how you push climate change past the point of no return," Greenpeace USA climate director Janet Redman said in a press release.
"The Interior Department can still stop this madness, but they need to hear from every single person who is worried about climate change and every leader in Congress who claims to care about the future. Seismic testing is the first step toward economically devastating oil spills and climate disasters like flooding up and down the Atlantic coast. Stopping seismic testing is a must," Redman said.
Earlier this week, the UN issued a report showing current efforts to curb global warming aren't sufficient to keep warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
Last week, the U.S. government also issued its own dire warning about the risk of climate change.
In reaction to the federal report, President Trump said: "I don't believe it."