Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. has added his name to the list of those opposed to the federal plan to issue permits to five companies to begin seismic surveying for oil and natural gas off the East Coast.
The Trump administration announced Nov. 30 plans to issue under the Marine Mammal Protection Act five Incidental Harassment Authorizations, or IHAs, which advance permit applications for seismic exploration.
Jones was one of 93 members of Congress who signed a bipartisan letter led by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging that they not allow seismic testing in the Atlantic to move forward.
Rutherford said he was worried about the effects seismic testing would have on vulnerable marine mammal populations and other marine life and how it would affect naval operations and training missions off the East Coast.
“We have very little information on what this would mean for our national security, the health of our recovering fisheries, or our coastal economies. Not to mention that any data collected about oil and gas reserves off our coast would be proprietary, meaning neither the public nor government officials would have access to this information. I am encouraged by today’s strong showing of bipartisan opposition to opening the Atlantic to seismic testing,” Rutherford said in a statement.
Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter issued a statement outlining the governor’s opposition. “Seismic testing that opens the door to offshore drilling threatens marine mammals and our fragile ocean ecosystem and is simply not worth the risk to North Carolina’s coastal communities, tourism economy and commercial fishing industry. Governor Cooper has made clear that North Carolina is opposed to this kind of seismic testing and will continue to take steps to protect our coast from the threat of offshore drilling.”
State Aquariums Opposed
In addition, the North Carolina Aquariums have joined a coalition of major public aquariums that announced opposition to the federal plan.
The North Carolina Aquariums have joined the New England Aquarium, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the New York Aquarium with its parent Wildlife Conservation Society in opposition to the plan.
Citing marine scientists’ concerns that the activity will affect already stressed ocean environments, the aquariums said NOAA’s authorization comes following unusual mortality events for large whale species along the East Coast. During the past two years, there has been a higher than usual number of humpback, minke and right whale deaths.
“To introduce the additional major and possibly lethal stressor of seismic blasting to already beleaguered whale populations along the Atlantic seaboard is an abdication of NOAA’s responsibility for the sound management of the living marine resources in the region,” said Scott Kraus, vice president and chief scientist for marine mammals at the New England Aquarium.