The ocean and our climate are making the headlines with awareness growing about sea level rise, plastic pollution, and the impact of human-induced carbon emissions. Just when it seems the threats to a healthy environment can’t grow any longer, our elected officials have proposed the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. This proposal would include seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Arctic and off of our coast in the Atlantic, prompting W2O and other organizations to challenge each and every one of us to defend our coast.
The ocean has no borders when it comes to the threat of an oil spill. No herculean effort can contain a spill or determine where it won’t go. The ocean has its own agenda, especially with the proposed area for drilling including the Gulf Stream just hundreds of miles offshore flowing from Mexico right up to Canada, over to Europe and finally to the Norwegian coast. An oil spill would devastate the economic engines of New England; including tourism and the fishing industry.
The first order of business before offshore drilling is exploration using seismic testing, which entails analysis of the ocean floor using airguns that emit a deafening sound. In a statement released this week denouncing the administration’s proposal, the New England Aquarium joined aquariums across the nation to warn of the dangers of this type of exploration.
The statement explains, “Seismic airgun noise travels more than 1,500 miles underwater. Scientific studies show that when seismic surveys happen, fewer fish are caught, more zooplankton die, and marine mammals struggle to flourish. Seismic airguns negatively impact everything around them and haven’t been used in the North Atlantic since the 1980s to search for commercial quantities of oil and gas.”
We think of our oceans as a silent underwater world. In reality, the ocean is full of noise. Diving on any given day, anywhere in the world, you might hear fish chomping, waves crashing, mammals calling to each other and even rain falling. Marine life is wired for sound and depends on it for finding food, mating, and migration. Our critically endangered North Atlantic right whale has fallen victim to multiple human stressors with only a few hundred left. These animals use the proposed area for drilling off of the Atlantic coast as their highway, breeding off of the coast of Georgia and coming north to feed right here in Cape Cod waters.
Explosions in the ocean not only affect the largest of our underwater friends, but also the smallest. Important nursery grounds and our newly designated first national monument in the Atlantic, the North East Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument are at risk from this proposal. Zooplankton, which is an important part of the ocean food web and includes the larval stage of fish and other marine organisms, dies when exposed to seismic testing according to this article in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Join W2O on January 10th for an evening to learn more about seismic surveys, oil and gas exploration and how you can protect our coast. The evening will include short films on the topic and an expert panel monitored by Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium, poised to answer questions and inspire you to speak up on behalf of our blue planet. Register here