President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just opened the door for private companies to perform dangerous seismic airgun blasting in search for oil and gas deep beneath the sea floor – ignoring scientific evidence and the will of coastal residents. This is just the latest step in what could be the most radical approach to offshore drilling in the history of our country. If the president’s plans are approved as proposed, nearly all U.S. waters could be opened to offshore oil drilling.

The government authorized five companies to harm marine animals with dynamite-like blasts in their search for oil. Seismic airgun blasting produces one of the loudest man-made sounds in the ocean, and the blasts risk serious injury or death to marine life. The government unlawfully authorized the harm of marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales, hundreds of thousands of times.


These animals are a part of the coastal fabric – residents and tourists alike are drawn to the water in hopes of observing these beautiful creatures. But noise from seismic airgun blasting can interfere with activities like communicating, mating and finding food. This would be especially harmful to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose migratory path lies within the huge seismic blast zone that stretches from New Jersey to Florida. Recent scientific estimates put their population at around 400 individuals, and, no new calves were observed in the past year. Any disruption to this population could tip the North Atlantic right whale irreversibly towards extinction.

And, it’s not just larger charismatic mammals at risk but also smaller animals lower on the food chain. Studies have shown that seismic airgun blasting can reduce catch rates of some commercially and recreationally important fish species by as much as 80 percent and kill zooplankton, the animals that form the basis of the ocean food web. Zooplankton may be small, but their loss would affect the entire marine ecosystem.

Disruptions in the marine ecosystem could hurt economies that rely on a clean ocean that is full of fish. Tourism, recreation and fishing along the East Coast support more than 1.5 million jobs and produce nearly $108 billion in GDP. That’s why businesses along the East Coast—including an alliance that represents more than 42,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families—are opposing oil and gas exploration and drilling. These jobs and dollars are all at risk not just from seismic airgun blasting, but also from what comes after: exploration means drilling, and drilling means spilling.

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploratory rig exploded and poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we saw environmental devastation and economic losses estimated in the billions. To add insult to injury, not only is President Trump working to sell out nearly all our waters to oil companies, he is also reversing safety rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon meant to reduce the likelihood of a similar disaster happening again.

Other than oil companies and their paid-for politicians in Washington, no one seems to want this. Over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone have officially opposed seismic airgun blasting off their coasts. These communities reject a future of coastal industrialization, oil spills and ruined summer vacations. They are supported by nationwide bipartisan opposition to this dangerous decision to blast their treasured waters. Allowing these companies to move forward with seismic airgun blasting would be unlawful and just plain wrong given the overwhelming local opposition.

Oceana and its partners believe that the authorizations to harm marine mammals violate key laws that were put in place to protect our environment. If these laws are properly enforced and the blasting is stopped, future generations will continue to be able to enjoy unsoiled beaches and the occasional thrill of glimpsing dolphins jumping through clean waves. These laws also safeguard the natural resources that drive coastal economies from being over-exploited or destroyed for the sake of short-term profits.

Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Environmental Law Center, Earthjustice and the Center for Biological Diversity are taking action together with other groups to challenge the federal government to stop severe harm to keystone marine species and to protect the coastal way of life for East Coast communities. We believe the law is on our side and look forward to the chance to prove this in court. We continue to urge President Trump and his administration to stop ignoring the people who have the most to lose and to rescind the permits to harm our iconic marine mammals in the dirty and dangerous search for offshore oil and gas. We won this fight before and we will win it again.

Diane Hoskins is campaign director at Oceana.