Oceana is the world’s largest international ocean advocacy organization and seeks to restore the resilience, diversity and abundance of marine ecosystems to ensure that our oceans are a significant source of wild-caught fish that can help feed the world. In the United States, Oceana campaigns to protect important nursery and spawning habitats from destructive bottom trawling, win protections for marine mammals and sea turtles caught as bycatch, combat seafood fraud, and stop offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic.
Louis Bacon and The Orton Foundation, The Moore Charitable Foundation’s affiliate in North Carolina, are proud partners of Oceana. Read about their fight to protect the Atlantic from offshore drilling and seismic testing from a recent report.
In 2015, the Obama Administration proposed opening large swaths of the Atlantic Ocean to industrial offshore drilling. Its proposal for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), covering the 2017-2022 period, would have allowed oil and gas lease sales in a large area off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In March 2016, in the face of intense opposition from coastal communities, fishing interests, the Department of Defense, and NASA the Administration removed the Atlantic lease sale from the 2017-2022 plan.
Offshore drilling supporters in Congress continue to push legislation to require drilling in the Atlantic. In addition, the federal government continues to review applications for companies to use seismic airguns to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.
Seismic airgun blasting is the first step to offshore drilling. The technique involves firing loud blasts of compressed air that are some of the loudest man-made sounds in the oceans, repeated about every ten seconds for days to weeks on end. These blasts pose a major threat to marine life, as the high decibel levels can damage marine animals’ hearing and disrupt navigation and communication necessary for everyday survival. The noise from seismic airgun blasting is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source—akin to the distance between Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas.
Millions of marine animals—including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and loggerhead sea turtles—will have their hearing, feeding, habitat, and migration patterns disturbed by the loud seismic blasts (see Appendix B). Some could even die due to impacts caused by large scale seismic blasting activities. Furthermore, airgun blasts have been seen to fatally damage fish eggs and larvae of certain species and scare away other fish from important habitat, leading to economic risk for fishing communities.
The proposals for seismic airgun blasting and drilling ignore mounting East Coast opposition, past disasters, and threats to economies and marine life — and put the entire Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida at risk, all for less than four percent of the nation’s total oil and natural gas reserves. Even if all of the economically recoverable resources off the East Coast were exploited, the oil would last for less than five months and the gas would last less than 10 months at current national consumption rates.
Offshore drilling could destroy the very fabric of coastal communities, state and local economies, and critical marine habitats for decades to come—and contribute to global climate change.