Legislators urged to prevent seismic blasting

March 4, 2014

The following letter was sent to Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons and Congressman John Carney with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.

Last week, I heard North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory say on CNN that “soon” we'll be using seismic blasting off the East Coast to find more oil. Shocked, I looked into the issue and learned that, indeed, seismic airgun testing is currently being proposed off Delaware's coast to search for offshore oil and gas - in an area twice the size of California, from Delaware to Florida - the impacts of which would be felt in coastal communities along the entire East Coast.

During this process, boats tow a large array of airguns that fire extremely loud blasts of compressed air into the ocean, mapping oil and gas deposits located deep below the seafloor. The sounds from these blasts are incredibly loud, more than 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine, and go off every 10-12 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks on end.

Seismic airgun testing will impact marine wildlife and coastal ecosystems negatively. According to the Department of the Interior, proposed seismic blasting could injure or kill 138,000 whales and dolphins, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Impacts on marine mammals include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings and even death. Seismic testing in the Atlantic would also be the first major step toward offshore drilling, which would further harm the marine environment through leaks, oil spills and habitat destruction.

Seismic airguns have also been shown to reduce catch rates of certain fisheries, and would devastate coastal economies throughout the Atlantic coast. Commercial and recreational fishing in the mid and south Atlantic alone generates $11.8 billion annually and supports 222,000 jobs. The Department of the Interior's analysis of this proposal ignores the economic impacts the proposed seismic testing will have on fisheries and the fishermen who rely on the oceans for their livelihoods. Millions of dollars in commercial fishing of blue crabs, oysters, menhaden and striped bass could be lost due to negative effects of seismic airguns.

Millions of people flock to the beaches of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia every year to walk the boardwalks and lie in the sand. Coastal tourism is a substantial economic driver in Mid-Atlantic states, which depend on the resources threatened by seismic airgun testing. Later this month, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will release a final Environmental Impact Statement for this proposal that is misleading, and fails to include the most comprehensive and up-to-date science.

Given the above, I ask you, how can we citizens of Delaware possibly cope with potentially 138,000 bodies of whales and dolphins and thousands of dead fish on our beaches? What is the plan to protect our citizens and our local economies, that depend on healthy oceans, from the devastation that will stem from this outrageous assault on our environment?

Janet Strickler

  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

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