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Beyer Introduces Legislation To Protect Marine Life From Seismic Airgun Blasting

Congressman Don Beyer today announced that he introduced bipartisan legislation, in partnership with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ),  to stop seismic airgun blasting along the Atlantic seaboard. While offshore petroleum extraction is off limits in the Atlantic until at least 2022 due to a recent Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) decision, permits for seismic airgun blasting remain under consideration.

“I was so happy when BOEM opted to protect Atlantic coastal communities, including those in Virginia, from offshore drilling, but we still have more work to do.” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Airgun blasting threatens critically important species and, in turn, our coastal communities. Marine life and ocean biodiversity aren’t just important to coastal environments, they are the bedrock of local and regional economies dependent on tourism, recreation, and many other industries. Let’s pass this bill and protect our Atlantic communities and fellow species.”

Seismic airgun pulses are loud, repetitive, explosive sounds used to identify oil and gas reservoirs deep in the ocean floor. Unfortunately, sound travels so efficiently under water that these seismic blasts are known to cause hearing damage, stress, and other harm to a range of aquatic species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which fewer than 500 remain.

Oceana campaign director Claire Douglass applauded the new bill:

“The fight to protect the Atlantic is not over. Oceana applauds Reps. Beyer and LoBiondo for their continued leadership to stop seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic. With offshore drilling off the table, there is absolutely no reason to risk the damage that would be caused by seismic airgun blasting. In addition to being extremely loud, these blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival.

“Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation. Coastal communities remain united in their opposition to offshore drilling activities off the East Coast. As of today, over 110 East Coast municipalities have publically opposed seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling, citing concerns to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. It’s time for President Obama to stop seismic airgun blasting and protect the more than 100,000 marine mammals currently in harm’s way. Instead of expanding our dependence on risky offshore drilling, we should rapidly develop clean energy solutions like offshore wind.”