Energy & Environment

The ocean threat you’ve never heard of, but Trump made easier

We recently celebrated World Oceans Day, which honors the incredible universe below the sea. But today, our oceans are in grave danger.

The Trump administration wants to expand seismic blasting and offshore drilling, wreaking havoc on our seas and jeopardizing coastal economies.

Seismic blasting is a violent, destructive part of offshore drilling. To find new oil reserves, ships tow large air guns along the surface of the ocean, blasting ultra high-volume sound waves down to the ocean floor, destroying or damaging sea life.

Blasts are emitted about every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day. Testing can last for weeks and be heard for hundreds of miles. 

{mosads}A typical rock concert is about 120 decibels. The volume of seismic blasts is about twice that — ranging from 200 to 260 decibels. That’s loud enough to burst the human eardrum.


The blasts are so loud, they cause permanent hearing damage to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that rely on hearing for survival. They can disrupt migration patterns, mating and have even been linked to whales beaching themselves.

Blasting kills fish eggs and larvae and scares off fish, emptying huge swaths of ocean and leaving commercial fishing operations with empty nets.

According to Oceana, catch rates of cod and haddock have declined 40 to 80 percent for thousands of miles after seismic blasting. Restaurants across the country and businesses in the tourism and fishing industries depend on healthy oceans teeming with life.

Both the mid- and south Atlantic fishery management councils have expressed opposition to proposed seismic blasting in the Atlantic.

What comes after seismic blasting — offshore drilling — is even worse. Coastal communities are opposed to seismic blasting and offshore drilling.

Over 120 communities on the Atlantic seaboard have passed resolutions against oil and gas development off their coasts. They know that when it comes to blasting and drilling, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Despite the strong opposition, the Trump administration wants to expand offshore drilling and seismic blasting off the Atlantic coast, and will take the first steps this summer. The Department of the Interior has announced plans for seismic blasting and new drilling exploration off the East Coast, where drilling has been blocked for decades. 

In April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to expand offshore drilling in U.S. waters, and over the next year, the federal government will consider new oil rigs in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean. 

Some members of Congress are already speaking out to try to stop this, but we need more. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) have introduced a bill that would halt permits for seismic airgun blasting on the Atlantic seaboard, and more than 100 House Democrats and Republicans have signed a letter urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to allow any new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Such bipartisan leadership, fueled by communities dependent on a healthy ocean, will be critical to stopping the administration’s plans. It’s a good start, but to stop the blasting and drilling, we need to pressure our elected officials to do more.

Ocean advocates and local communities will fight this backward thinking every step of the way, just as we did under President Obama. We have the resources and technologies to transition to clean energy now, before it’s too late for our oceans. 

We refuse to idly sit back and watch President Trump implement his misguided policies. Our oceans are vital for our survival and are under too much stress to undergo this destruction.

Chad Nelsen is the CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit founded over 30 years ago to protect our nation’s oceans, waves and beaches. The Surfrider Foundation has over 500,000 supporters, activists and members, 80 volunteer-led chapters, 60 youth clubs and 50 staff working at the local, regional and national levels to protect our coasts.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Executive Order oceans Offshore drilling seismic blasting

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