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SCB Marine Section Urges Department of Interior to Not Allow Seismic Exploration Activities in the Atlantic Ocean

On July 2, the Society for Conservation Biology, on behalf of its Marine Section, submitted formal comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within the Department of Interior regarding its draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) regarding possible geological and geophysical seismic activities in support of oil and gas exploration and development in the Atlantic Ocean.  In 2010, Congress ordered BOEM to examine the possible environmental impacts of seismic activities in the Atlantic Ocean, a necessary precursor to further oil exploration and development activities off the Atlantic coast.  SCB is concernd that the draft PEIS underestimates the risks that seismic activities, especially deep penetration seismic air gun surveys, pose for the critically endangered north Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis).  Given the suite of anthropogenic threats that this species already faces from commercial and recreational fisheries, collisions with large vessels, renewable energy development, marine minerals use, LNG import terminals, military training, and dredged material disposal, as well as long-term challenges of climate change, seismic surveys will likely place this species in greater jeopardy of extinction.

High-intensity pulses produced by seismic air gun surveys can cause a range of impacts on marine mammals, fish, and other marine life, including habitat displacement and disruption of vital behaviors essential to foraging and breeding.  In some cases, seismic air gun surveys can result in injuries or mortalities to marine species, including marine mammals.   For these reasons, SCB is supporting Alternative C, the no action alternative, because it represents the most precautionary approach to managing the ongoing development of the Atlantic Ocean’s natural resources, while providing sufficient protection for its critically endangered wildlife.  Under this alternative, BOEM would not permit any seismic activities in the Atlantic ocean with regard to oil and gas exploration.  Adoption of Alternative C would not affect BOEM's ability to move forward with offshore wind or other renewable energy activities.

The SCB comment letter can be found HERE.

Read a related news story from Energy & Environment Publishing  quoting SCB's concerns about right whales HERE.