Seismic testing will harm marine mammals and valuable fishery resources


Boston (November 30, 2018) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement after the National Marine Fisheries Service issued incidental harassment authorizations allowing oil and gas companies to subject marine mammals to loud air guns blasts. The authorizations, issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, will be granted to five separate companies using survey activities such as seismic airgun blasting to look for oil and natural gas deposits off the Atlantic coast. These activities have been shown to harm a wide variety of economically and ecologically important species, from tiny plankton to large whales.


“Underwater seismic airgun blasting for oil and gas is a significant threat to marine life and coastal economies,” said Senator Markey. “The blasting threatens iconic species like the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale, and the oil and gas drilling would threaten our coastlines with an oil spill. I will continue to fight the Trump administration every step of the way to protect our waters off of New England from Big Oil.”


In addition, the results of the seismic testing activities will not be made available to the public, preventing coastal communities from conducting any cost-benefit analyses regarding how offshore oil and gas development will impact their economies.


“We are very disappointed to learn that the Trump administration has taken steps to allow seismic air gun blasting in the Atlantic,” said Angela Sanfilippo, President of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association. “Fishermen have made great sacrifices to protect fish stocks and here we go with something that will harm the marine habitat and the marine environment. We as fish people know that these activities are harmful to fish, marine mammals and humans.”


Opening up the Atlantic coast has been widely opposed by fishing, tourism, and environmental interests, who recognize the harm to marine life from seismic exploration, the potentially catastrophic damage from an oil spill, and the impacts of fossil fuel emissions on the planet that could result.


“This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life. This is the first step toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic and we’re going to make sure coastal communities know what’s happening and fight this.”


In April 2017, Senators Markey and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) led a group of 27 senators in calling on the Trump administration to protect the coastlines of the United States from offshore oil drilling. The senators introduced legislation and sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging him not to revise the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (Five-Year Plan) to eliminate protections for the East and West Coasts, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and for the sensitive marine ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean.