Politicians call on NOAA to reject seismic testing in Atlantic

Robert Menendez, Senator for New Jersey, Democratic party, and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. who represents New Jersey’s Sixth Congressional District, Monday sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in opposition to proposed oil and gas geophysical survey activity, including seismic testing, in the Atlantic Ocean. 

According to NOAA, the scale of the proposed surveys is unprecedented in U.S. waters.

NOAA will be reviewing applications from four companies for seismic testing of oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to Florida. According to the Senator and the Congressman, the applications are for Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHA), which would allow for the companies to injure and harass marine mammals with the use of seismic airgun testing.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote: “This type of seismic airgun testing poses a serious threat to fish populations, profitable fisheries and marine life… It should also be noted that offshore oil and gas drilling, as this survey intends to study, would put New Jersey’s economy and shore communities at significant risk. At a time when New Jerseyans are still working to rebuild their lives after Sandy, the last thing we need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill.”

Menendez and Pallone expressed particular concern with the application from Spectrum Geo, which would, as they say, allow for the injury of marine mammals during a marine geophysical survey.

They wrote: “We are particularly concerned with the application by Spectrum Geo, which has requested permission for “Level A Harassment,” defined as the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.”

Also, they said it has been shown that seismic airguns decrease fisheries catch rates by 40-80 percent.

Putting jobs at risk

In their letter, they said that commercial and recreational fishing off the Mid- and South Atlantic generate billions of dollars annually and support over 200,000 jobs.

“Putting our coastal economy at risk for the sake of searching for oil and gas off the Atlantic Coast is dangerous and misguided,” their letter reads.

They concluded their letter with the request towards NOAA to requesting NOAA to deny the pending IHA requests under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), adding that “it is irresponsible to allow for this disruptive and destructive testing in the Atlantic Ocean, which could ultimately lead to oil and gas development in the Mid- and South Atlantic.”

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