Airgun testing in search for oil and gas could harm hundreds of mammals such as dolphins and whales off the Atlantic coast
'The Trump administration is to allow marine creatures such as whales and dolphins to be harmed by companies as they search for potential oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has granted five operators permission to “incidentally but not intentionally harass marine mammals” while conducting surveys for fossil fuels in the seabed.
The testing will involve the use of seismic air guns which fire continuous blasts to ascertain whether deposits of oil and gas are present. This procedure is a precursor to what could be the first drilling in federal waters off the US eastern seaboard in decades.
By the federal government’s own estimates, airgun testing could harm hundreds of thousands of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales. Of particular concern is the endangered North Atlantic right whale, with only around 440 individuals left, including less than 100 breeding females.
Scientists have warned that the extreme disruption caused by airguns can harm a wide range of aquatic life, including sea turtles, fish and zooplankton, a critical foundational plank of the ocean food web.
Under the authorizations issued by Noaa, operators will have to listen and watch fo marine life while testing and shut down activity if groups of sensitive species are observed. Harm deemed unintentional, however, will not incur any penalty.
Noise from the airgun blasts can travel to 2,500 miles according to some studies and cause major problems for certain animals as they try to navigate or breed.
Environmental groups, which successfully allied with local communities to push back against plans for Atlantic drilling under the Obama administration, said they will fight the new push for oil and gas in the region.'
Read more: Trump administration to allow seismic blasting harmful to marine creatures