WASHINGTON (April 28, 2017) – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) raised concerns with the new executive order that could withdraw protections for offshore areas from future oil and gas development, including the Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York.

The following statement was released by John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs:

“WCS is disheartened by today’s executive order that will put certain areas, especially in the Atlantic Ocean, back on the table for offshore drilling. After seeing positive policy changes based on the best available science last year, this can only be considered a major step backward for vulnerable marine species and the livelihoods of people who depend on marine resources, including fisheries which could be greatly impacted by fossil fuel development.

“The order outlines the administration’s intent to expedite the issuance of seismic surveys for oil and gas, despite the fact that they pose a distinct threat to marine mammals in the Atlantic, as well as other species including some important to local fisheries. Last year, a group of renowned marine mammal scientists sent a letter to the administration underscoring new scientific research that showed the impacts of seismic surveys on the endangered North Atlantic right whale and other marine life. The stress of widespread seismic airgun surveys may well represent a tipping point for the survival of the North Atlantic right whale.

“Finally, the order perversely requires any potential marine sanctuary to undergo a full accounting of its potential for oil and gas development. This could inflict damage on the places we most need to protect. Last year, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium led a coalition of NGOs, scientists, and other stakeholders in submitting a proposal to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to designate the Hudson Canyon a National Marine Sanctuary. We need to ensure the long-term health for this diverse but delicate ecosystem, and this is the wrong way to do it.

“While the purpose of this order is to increase income and jobs, oil and gas development are not the only way to do this. In the Mid-Atlantic region alone, the commercial fishing industry supports more than 133,000 jobs and more than $16 billion in sales. The tourism and recreation industries, reliant on clean water and abundant wildlife, add billions more. These existing economic uses that support both wildlife and livelihoods may be incompatible with expanded oil and gas development.

“WCS, through its New York-based Marine Conservation Program, is a global leader on ocean conservation. Today’s announcement reinforces the need for continued advocacy on behalf of ocean wildlife, our marine resources and the people who depend on them.”