WASHINGTON (May 15, 2017) – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) raised concerns about a Department of the Interior order last week that could reopen offshore seismic testing for oil and gas in parts of the Atlantic Ocean. The directive follows an executive order that encouraged increased offshore oil and gas development, including seismic surveys, and reverses an Obama Administration order in January that denied such survey permits.

The following statement was released by Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of the WCS’s Ocean Giants Program:

“We are disappointed in the Department of the Interior’s move to reconsider six seismic airgun survey permits in the Atlantic Ocean. We are now seeing published scientific studies showing seismic surveys impact marine mammals and other marine life..”

“The stress of widespread seismic airgun surveys may even represent a tipping point for the survival of the endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose population currently numbers only about 500.

“Last year, I joined a group of renowned marine mammal scientists to send a letter to the administration underscoring new scientific research about the status of North Atlantic right whales and the potential impacts of seismic surveys on the North Atlantic right whale and other marine life.

“The mid- and southeastern coastal areas of the United States—places for which the seismic survey permits are being considered—represent important wintering and calving grounds, as well as migration areas for the North Atlantic right whale. The sounds emitted from seismic airguns used in the search for oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor could impact and disrupt essential communications and lead to increased stress for these whales and other marine mammals. Right whale mother and calf pairs could face considerable risk in and around important habitats should seismic surveys take place.

“The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can still hold to recent decisions and deny the six permits currently under consideration. We urge them to fully account for the effects of seismic survey on marine mammals and the natural environment.”