The expansion of offshore drilling does not bode well for critical habit.

With today’s Executive Order announcement from the Trump administration asking for new reviews of the federal five-year (2017-2022) leasing plan for offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, the writing is clearly on the wall for the expansion of offshore drilling at the expense of protecting critical habit for marine mammals.

Areas with rich marine mammal species diversity in the Arctic Ocean such as the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and in the mid and south Atlantic Ocean were previously declared off-limits for any future oil and gas leasing by the Obama administration under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Now with one quick stroke of the pen, those protections could vanish.

READ: US denies seismic survey permits in Atlantic and Obama’s Arctic drilling ban: Conservation trumps oil

Marine mammals use sound to communicate with one another, find food, find a mate; basically other than swimming and breathing, sound is essential for their survival. As a precursor to actual offshore oil and gas development, energy companies need to perform surveys of the ocean floor in order to determine where to drill. These “seismic” surveys are done using massive airguns which blast extremely loud sound waves through the water column deep into the seabed. These airguns can blast every 10-12 seconds and are repeated for days, weeks, or even months at a time and have an enormous environmental footprint in the surrounding marine habitat. So imagine what it’s like to be a whale trying to find food or nurse your young while getting blasted with intense sound waves over and over again.

And these seismic surveys are just one aspect of the potential harm to marine mammals. You can’t forget the impact of an offshore oil spill and what that does to marine life; especially dolphins.

There are dark days ahead for the fate of marine mammals in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, or more appropriately, noisy and perhaps oily days ahead…

–CH

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Article source: IFAW

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