Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Huge Victory: Seismic Blasting Is Halted in Atlantic Ocean

Oceans
Huge Victory: Seismic Blasting Is Halted in Atlantic Ocean
Bottlenose dolphins are seen swimming off the coast of Miami in the Atlantic Ocean. Brandon Trentler / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Andrea Germanos

The federal government and fossil fuel industry announced at a legal hearing Thursday that seismic blasting will not be carried out in the Atlantic Ocean this year—and possibly not in the near future either—a development welcomed by conservation groups who lobbied forcefully against what they said would have been an "unjustified acoustic attack on our oceans."


"Communities can breathe a little easier knowing the Atlantic is now safe from seismic airgun blasting in 2020," said Oceana campaign director Diane Hoskins, who called the news "a bright spot and in line with the court of public opinion."

Confirmation of the pause on the blasting, an initial step in searching for offshore oil, came at a status conference for ongoing litigation over the issuance of so-called Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) that would have allowed fossil fuel companies to "incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals" including the endangered North Atlantic right whale, humpback whale, and bottlenose dolphin.

The risk was particularly acute for the right whale. Alice M. Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for One Hundred Miles, warned that "seismic blasting in the Atlantic would sound the death knell for this magnificent species."

Ocean conservation advocates have long sounded alarm about widespread harms caused by airgun tests that "generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean, short of those made by explosives" and can trigger hearing loss in marine mammals that rely on echolocation. Such blasts can be "repeated every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks at a time."

Confirming a legal filing from Tuesday, government attorneys said Thursday that the IHAs in question expire at the end of November, and there is no legal or regulatory ability to extend them. Industry lawyers also indicated to the judge at the tele-hearing that even if they were issued new permits, it was unfeasible to begin seismic testing this year. Moreover, acquiring new permits is a lengthy process.

"There will be no boats in the water this year, and because this resets the clock, there will be no boats in the water for a long time," said Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Beyond the direct harm from seismic surveys, ocean defenders pointed to the folly of looking for more fossil fuels amid the deepening climate crisis.

"Seismic blasting harms whales in the search for offshore oil that we should leave in the ground. We can't allow the oil industry's greed to threaten endangered North Atlantic right whales and other vulnerable species," said Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

"We're happy these animals will have a reprieve from this unjustified acoustic attack on our oceans," she said, vowing to "keep fighting to ensure the oil industry stays out of the Atlantic."

That necessitates a full ban on offshore drilling activities, said Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC.

"The only way to end the threat," he said, "is to prohibit offshore oil and gas exploration for good."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

Air France airplanes parked at the Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport on March 24, 2020. SAMSON / AFP via Getty Images

France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A woman looks at a dead gray whale on the beach in the SF Bay area on May 23, 2019; a new spate of gray whales have been turning up dead near San Francisco. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A small tourist town has borne the brunt of a cyclone which swept across the West Australian coast. ABC News (Australia) / YouTube

Tropical Cyclone Seroja slammed into the Western Australian town of Kalbarri Sunday as a Category 3 storm before grinding a more-than 600-mile path across the country's Southwest.

Read More Show Less
A general view shows the remains of a dam along a river in Tapovan, India, on February 10, 2021, following a flash flood caused by a glacier break on February 7. Sajjad Hussain / AFP / Getty Images

By Rishika Pardikar

Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous youth, organizers with the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipeline fights and climate activists march to the White House to protest against pipeline projects on April 1, 2021. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.

Read More Show Less