A couple of “Veeps” speak out against seismic airgun use in the mid-Atlantic
Critically endangered North Atlantic right whales migrate every year along the East Coast, but proposed seismic airgun testing for oil and gas deposits in these waters threatens to increase the hazards on this already perilous journey. This controversial technology is a threat not only to North Atlantic right whales, but to fisheries, local economies, and other a plethora of other marine animals.
Last week, actor and ocean activist Reid Scott moderated a panel of experts at an Oceana-led congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. The panel was there to urge Congress and the Obama administration to oppose the proposed use of seismic airguns to look for oil and gas below the sea floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.
Scott, who plays the Deputy Director of Communication to the Vice President on HBO’s Emmy award winning comedy series “VEEP,” was joined by Oceana’s “Veep” of their US Oceans campaign, Jacqueline Savitz, to highlight the many dangers associated with seismic airgun technology.
Along with, Commissioner Emilie Swearingen from the Town of Kure Beach, and Dr. Douglas Nowack of Duke University Marine Laboratory, Scott and Savitz spoke passionately to the room, encouraging the participants to educate those around them on perils of seismic airgun usage. Scott stressed that dissemination of information is the key to getting people to support this issue, “once they know the facts, they’re on our side”, he stated.
Seismic airguns use incredibly loud sound pulses directed at the sea floor, which are some of the loudest man-made noises in the oceans. Imagine intense bursts of deafening noise – like the roar of a jet engine passing overhead – every 10 seconds ... 24 hours a day... for weeks on end.
The noise from seismic airguns radiates through the water and inundates whales’ eardrums. One of the most dangerous impacts of this noise is that it interferes with a whale’s own use of sound to communicate essential survival information, such as food location, imminent dangers, and reproductive status. The whales’ calls are overpowered by these blasts to such an extent that their pods can become separated.
IFAW, together with Oceana and over 160 conservation and animal welfare organizations, and groups like The Billfish Foundation and The International Game Fish Association have joined the mounting opposition against seismic airgun use.
And on a federal level, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, as well as more than 50 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns last year.
This past month, more than 100,000 petitions opposing seismic airguns were submitted to the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, while thousands more went to the governors of the East Coast states.
All of these comments implored leadership to use the best available science when making its decision to allow oil and gas development in the Mid-Atlantic.
The science tells us what we need to know: seismic airgun testing could be detrimental to the North Atlantic right whales in these areas.
With a population of fewer than 500 individuals, these critically endangered whales are barely hanging on as it is. Ship strikes and entanglement issues already plague their journey. Seismic airgun testing could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, pushing this population past the point of no return.
For more information about IFAW efforts to help protect whales, visit our campaign page.