Whales, dolphins, a functioning oceanic ecosystem—who needs any of that crap, amirite? What we need is more real loud noises pumping through the Atlantic Ocean like a Danzig song, deafening sea mammals from Delaware to Florida. And more oil and gas drilling offshore. Yeah, that's the good stuff. Mainline that right into my veins.
So says, seemingly, the White House and the Department of the Interior as they've recently given the go-ahead to private companies to begin blasting the hell out of the Atlantic with things called "seismic airguns" that fill the water with incredible noise in an effort to detect oil and gas deposits under the seafloor.
Every ten seconds, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, these guns go off. They can cause deafness, total abandonment of habitat, kill larvae and eggs, and cause beachings and death. Whales and dolphins, you'll note, live by their ability to navigate with sonar and hearing, and constant, ear-splitting noise is even worse for them than it would be for you.
Maybe worse, is the fact that these airgun surveys mean drilling is just around the corner, as the Interior Department has declared a field day for oil and gas drilling off the coast. This, right on the heels of damning and, frankly terrifying, reports about the state of the climate and the role of continued fossil fuel burning in the warming and rising of the seas, and massive disruption of ecosystems worldwide.
Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service started issuing authorizations to screw with marine life by beginning airgun blasting. Amazingly, these permits will allow for the killing of mammals that are, ostensibly anyway, protected by the Endangered Species Act. North Atlantic right whales, for example, live right in the heart of where most of the blasting will occur, and their numbers are already at dismal lows.
"We will continue to fight back against [these] dangerous plans to subject our coasts to seismic blasting and expanded offshore drilling," said the Sierra Club's Athan Manuel.
NOAA has been in communication with the Interior Department and has insisted that these blasts can be done without significant harm to marine life. In theory, NOAA advisors will be monitoring blast zones to ensure there are no whales present when it's time to sound off with the guns. This, of course, seems like an overly optimistic approach considering whales and dolphins can dive to incredible depths and can't always be detected. Not to mention the fact that these sounds will travel great distances in an already incredibly noisy oceanic ecosystem, filled with a cacophony of drilling and boat engine sounds.
"A study published last summer found the smallest members of the oceanic food chain can be killed by seismic air blasts. Zooplankton—tiny creatures like baby jellyfish, crustaceans, and larvae—were found to have declined by 64 percent within 4,000 feet of the blast," reported the National Geographic last week.
Zooplankton, of course, is a foundational member of the food web, and a 64 percent decline would be disastrous for all marine life in those death zones.
Environmental organizations have already begun fighting this new proposal and, if you're so inclined, Surfrider, Oceana, the Sierra Club, and Earthjustice have a lot more info on what they plan to do.
Are you on the Atlantic coast? Not stoked with the idea of massive new oil drilling projects with the potential to unleash environmental hell on your favorite beaches? Are you not on the Atlantic, but not thrilled with double and tripling-down on fossil fuel extraction and burning when the whole world knows what that means for the future?
Well, this would be a good time to get involved in standing up to protect the oceans, which you love or else you wouldn't be on this website in the first place.