Press Release Nov 30, 2018

Trump Administration Advances Seismic Testing, Threatening Wildlife at 33 Coastal National Parks

The Trump administration is ignoring threats to whales, dolphins and other marine life to further its ongoing quest for energy dominance.

WASHINGTON – The Trump Administration today advanced plans related to offshore drilling exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, threatening whales, turtles, fish and marine life near 33 coastal national parks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Fisheries Service issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations, allowing companies to disturb federally protected marine mammals through seismic airgun testing. Such testing would take place along the coast from Delaware to central Florida, with far-reaching threats to marine life up and down the eastern seaboard.

Five companies applied last year to search for oil and gas deposits beneath the Atlantic seafloor using seismic airgun technology. The technology involves shooting loud blasts of compressed air down into the seafloor to locate underground deposits of fossil fuels. Today’s approval serves as a final procedural step before approving permits for five companies.

Scientists have warned that this practice threatens whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life, and may force these animals from their feeding, breeding or calving habitats. Seismic airgun use has been linked to the stranding deaths of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and can cause deafness and other impairment in animals.

Thirty-three national park sites from Maine to Florida covering 2,875 Atlantic shoreline miles and 329,110 acres of marine waters could be affected by this testing. Seeing animals such as whales and dolphins at these national parks is a major draw for visitors, which generated $2.73 billion in economic output and 30,000 jobs in 2016 alone.

National Parks Conservation Association has opposed the permits, arguing that they block the Park Service from exercising its mandate under the National Park Service Organic Act to protect park wildlife.

Statement by Natalie Levine, Park Resource Protection Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association:

“Through today’s announcement, the Trump administration is ignoring threats to whales, along with dolphins and other marine life to further its ongoing quest for energy dominance. Such incredible wildlife are essential to maintaining healthy oceans as well as strong tourism economies, as they attract millions of annual visitors to our coastal national parks. Whale watching at these national parks could become history, as seismic testing threatens animals including the 500 remaining North Atlantic Right Whales.

“We are deeply concerned about the seismic airgun testing on its own and as it relates to the larger, pending plan by the administration to open up waters across the United States to dangerous offshore drilling.“

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.