Thursday, March 20, 2014

Action Alert: Stop Seismic Testing Off New Jersey!

Despite the efforts of New Jersey elected officials, concerned citizens, and organizations like yours to close the door on seismic testing off our shores, we are now facing yet another seismic threat – this time right at our doorstep and happening already this summer.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO), in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), have proposed a study of seafloor sediments 15 miles off the Barnegat Bay to better understand historical changes in sea level from 60 million years ago through the present.  The researchers propose to use powerful seismic airgun arrays to shoot blasts of compressed air deep into the seabed, similar to the process used to locate buried oil and gas deposits.  Furthermore, the airgun blasting would endure for 720 hours over a 30-day period.  The L-DEO researchers have requested authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to “take” (i.e., harass) individuals from 26 marine mammal species during its study, which was conditionally granted on Monday, March 17 in a federal register notice of the proposed incidental harassment authorization.  The proposed authorization is an evaluation of information provided by L-DEO regarding its potential impacts on marine mammals and NMFS’s ultimate approval, despite evidence linking seismic activities to harm.

Proposed location off Barnegat Bay
The proposed authorization acknowledges the scarcity of data at several points throughout its discussion of potential impacts of seismic activity on marine mammals and other animals, yet it consistently writes off the impacts as negligible.  For example, the proposal states: “The sound criteria used to estimate how many marine mammals might be disturbed to some biologically-important degree by a seismic program are based primarily on behavioral observations of a few species…for many species there are no data on responses to marine seismic surveys.”  Given that 26 marine mammal species could potentially be impacted by this survey, 6 of which are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, it is concerning to see NMFS gloss over impacts in the absence of hard data instead of taking a more precautionary approach.

Furthermore, the proposed authorization references information that is irrelevant or even incorrect, and several instances of “cut and paste” from previously issued authorizations are evident.  For example, at one point, the notice states, “Additionally, no beaked whale species occur in the proposed seismic survey area,” even though earlier in the notice, six species of beaked whale are listed as potentially occurring in the proposed study area.  How can we rely on NMFS’s evaluation of impacts to marine mammals from this proposed seismic survey, when entire groups of marine mammals are erroneously omitted from their analysis?

Clean Ocean Action has already begun to develop its response to this proposal to blast the ocean with seismic airguns in the name of scientific research.  We first sent a letter to NMFS with over 30 signatories to request a 60-day extension to the 30-day comment period and a public hearing.  NMFS responded to COA on April 9th with the news that the comment period has been extended by 30 days, with a new deadline of May 16th; however, COA is still pushing for the full 60-day extension and a public hearing.  We are currently drafting detailed comments on the proposed authorization for submission to NMFS.

Seismic airguns, whatever the reason for their use, can have devastating impacts to cherished marine mammal species and vital coastal industries, including commercial and recreational fisheries and tourism.  Join Clean Ocean Action in defending our precious coastal resources from the far-reaching impacts of seismic testing.

Call on your local elected officials to pass a resolution opposing seismic testing – no matter the location or objective.

Click here for our fact sheet on this issue.

Please call Clean Ocean Action at 732.872.0111 or email Cassandra Ornell at with questions.  To get involved, email Lauren Townsend at The clock is ticking…

1 comment:

  1. Bad idea sea beds still recovering after sandy minnows fish have declined since the storm