The deafening impact of oil & gas development in the Mid-Atlantic

An oil rig can be seen billowing smoke in the distance as a whale surfaces in the foreground.Critically endangered North Atlantic right whales migrate every year along the East Coast, but newly proposed seismic airgun testing for oil and gas deposits in these waters threatens to make this journey rather perilous.

Seismic airgun technology uses incredibly loud sound pulses directed at the sea floor, which are some of the loudest man-made noises in the oceans. The noise from seismic airguns radiates through the water and inundates whales’ eardrums.  

RELATED: Cacophony of ocean noise is not music to a whale’s ear

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.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) just brought us one step closer to drilling in the Atlantic this month by releasing their final proposal to allow this to happen. The proposal would allow airgun blasting to span from Delaware to Florida – in an area twice the size of California, harming the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, along with other marine wildlife, ecosystems, fisheries and coastal economies throughout the entire East Coast.

IFAW, together with Oceana and other NGOs, have met with members of Congress and the Obama administration to express our concern. We have encouraged 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 around 450 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 final threat that pushes the population over the edge.


Take action for whales and protect them from ocean noise right now by clicking here.

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