Congressman Lowenthal Urges Consideration of Man-Made Sound Impacts on Marine Life For Any Off-Shore Oil and Gas Development

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Washington, D.C., July 17, 2017 | comments

Congressman Alan Lowenthal today, along with 21 Congressional colleagues, called on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to rely on National Marine Fisheries Services’ (NMFS) 2016 technical guidance for assessing the effects of man-made sound, such as seismic testing, on marine mammals during any future ocean environment oil or gas development.

“Marine mammals are highly intelligent animals that use sound to communicate, find food, and inform social interactions. But the impacts of underwater sound and seismic testing are not limited to marine mammals -even zooplankton, the microscopic animals at the base of ocean food webs, are harmed by seismic testing,” Congressman Lowenthal wrote in the letter to Secretary Ross.

The letter goes on to point out that coastal recreation, whale watching, and fishing are major contributors to local economies. All of these would be impacted by oil exploration and development if oil companies are allowed to proceed uninformed by any scientific guidance.

The NMFS guidance that the Congressman’s letter supports explains the risks of seismic testing to marine ecosystems, and establishes threshold guidelines under which operators will minimize sound impacts on the marine ecosystem. 

“If new ocean areas are opened up to oil exploration and leasing under President Trump’s recent Executive Order, Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” the letter continues, “it is vital that this exploration be done in an environmentally responsible way that protects the fragile marine ecosystems. I am hopeful that the Administration will consider the recommendations contained in this letter as it formulates policies relating to offshore oil exploration.”

The letter urges Secretary Ross to rely on the NMFS technical guidance as currently written, which includes robust scientific information, has been extensively reviewed, and provides a systematic and transparent assessment of the impacts of underwater sounds along our coasts.

“A full consideration of these impacts is absolutely necessary to ensure that any oil and gas development is environmentally responsible,” the letter concludes.

To read the full text of the letter and the signatories, click here.
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