An environmental group involved in a federal lawsuit filed to stop future seismic testing for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast says marine animals will suffer greatly if the testing occurs.
“It can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in marine mammals,” Center for Biological Diversity Oceans Program legal director Kristen Monsell said. “It’s also known to disrupt their ability to feed, breed and really conduct the most basic functions.
The Center for Biological Diversity is one of seven environmental groups who filed suit in federal court in Charleston last week, claiming that permits issued to allow seismic testing for oil and natural gas violate federal laws. The permits were approved after President Trump signed an order in 2017 allowing exploration for potential drilling for oil offshore of the Atlantic coast.
However, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors said, while marine wildlife will avoid an area where seismic testing is occurring, there is no evidence that it injures whales or other mammals.
But Monsell said there’s no margin for error on many species, particularly critically-endangered North Atlantic right whales. Monsell said scientists do not believe a single calf was born during the most recent breeding season, which she said is a first since the federal government began monitoring them nearly four decades ago.
“We have to stop this harmful activity,” Monsell said. “This year is incredibly important for the species and for calving in particular,” she said. At least 20 right whales have died since 2017.
The National Marine Fisheries Service last month authorized permits for five companies to potentially impact wildlife with seismic surveys in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
“We have to show the court what the agency did was arbitrary and capricious and failed to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with the Endangered Species Act and with the National Environmental Policy Act,” Monsell said. “We are very confident that we will be able to do that.”