ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT)–The Trump Administration announced it is considering seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, the first step toward offshore drilling.
Six applications by energy companies are being reviewed by the Interior Department. They were previously rejected by the Obama Administration.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order that calls for opening up the Atlantic Ocean, as well as parts of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, to offshore drilling.
Here’s how it works: a large vessel tows a “streamer,” which emits sound waves to map the crust of the ocean along more than 400 miles into the seabed to check for oil and gas reserves.
Environmental groups along the coast don’t like the idea of the testing.
“Our tourism economy is based on the beauty of our beaches,” Erin Carey, coastal coordinator for the NC Chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “If that view or those sounds are marred by the oil industry or by seismic testing, it’s going to have a negative impact on tourism.”
The Secretary of the Interior has said the seismic testing will enable an inventory of the nation’s fossil fuel reserves. And there are restrictions on when permits can be issued. For example, during the endangered right whales’ calving season, which occurs during the winter months.
But researchers say there’s some evidence of the presence of these whales off our coast year round, putting an already endangered species even more at risk.
“It gets loud enough that they can’t get any information across to one another and so they just quit,” Dr. Doug Nowacek, researcher at Duke Marine Lab, said. “And that can be dangerous especially if it’s a case of mother-calf pairs for example because they are not able to communicate with each other.”
Researchers say loud sounds from seismic air guns could also harm other marine life, like fish.
“Mammals find their way and communicate through sound so if we are blasting sound through the ocean every 10 seconds they’re going to have problems communicating, finding each other and finding food,” Carey said.
The final approval of seismic testing will come after a 30 day public comment period, and testing could begin three miles off the coast over the course of the next year.