The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Loryn Baughman, 202.467.1909,
Dustin Cranor, 202.341.2267,

Feds to Authorize Companies to Harm Dolphins and Whales with Seismic Airgun Blasting Activities in Atlantic Ocean

Oceana Releases New Interactive “We’re Watching” Map to Track Seismic Activity


Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service will authorize companies to harm marine mammals like dolphins and whales with seismic airgun blasting activities in the Atlantic Ocean. This dangerous and extremely loud exploration method is used by private companies to identify potential oil and gas deposits deep below the seafloor. Moreover, exploratory drilling like BP Deepwater Horizon, which exploded in the Gulf eight years ago and caused the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, would be the next step they take to confirm the presence of oil and gas.

Before seismic airgun blasting can begin in the Atlantic, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management must issue final permits, which are expected in the near future. The proposed area for seismic airgun blasting is twice the size of California, stretching from Cape May, New Jersey to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The government has estimated that this seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could harass or harm marine mammals like dolphins and whales hundreds of thousands of times. In fact, these permits were previously denied after it was concluded that the "value of obtaining the geophysical and geological information from new airgun seismic surveys in the Atlantic does not outweigh the potential risks of those surveys' acoustic pulse impacts on marine life."

"This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone," said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. "These permits were already denied because of the known harm that seismic airgun blasting causes. President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale - all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil. This is the first step toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic and we're going to make sure coastal communities know what's happening and fight this."

In response to today's announcement, Oceana launched a new interactive "We're Watching" map to track apparent seismic vessels in near real-time off the East Coast. Using the technology of Global Fishing Watch, Oceana's map displays tracking data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to show vessels that are affiliated with offshore exploration companies, including those seeking permits for seismic airgun blasting. The map is free and available to anyone with an internet connection at

"If these companies are allowed to begin seismic airgun blasting, our map gives the public near real-time access to the precise locations of vessels so that they know when, where and if these activities begin off our coast," added Hoskins. "This interactive map is a powerful tool in the fight to protect Atlantic communities from offshore drilling."

In addition to the harm that seismic airgun blasting would have on marine life, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, fish and zooplankton - the foundation of the ocean food web, it is also the first step in opening the Atlantic to dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. According to Oceana's recent economic analysis, offshore drilling activities, including seismic airgun blasting, along the Atlantic threaten over 1.5 million jobs and nearly $108 billion in GDP for less than seven months'-worth of oil and less than six months'-worth of gas.

As of today, opposition and concern over offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic includes:

  • Every East Coast Governor except one, including: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire
  • More than 240 East Coast municipalities
  • Over 1,600 local, state and federal bipartisan officials
  • An alliance representing over 42,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families
  • New England, South Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic fishery management councils
  • Commercial and recreational fishing interests such as Southeastern Fisheries Association, Snook and Gamefish Foundation, Fisheries Survival Fund, Southern Shrimp Alliance, North Atlantic Marine Alliance, Billfish Foundation and International Game Fish Association

To view Oceana's maps overlaying the area being considered for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic with known habitats for at-risk turtles, whales and sharks, as well as commercially and recreationally important fish species, please click here.

To view Oceana's animated maps showing the threat of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic to dolphins and whales, please click here.

For Oceana's fact sheet about seismic airgun blasting and its known impacts to marine life, please click here.

Oceana is the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization. Oceana works to protect and restore the world's oceans through targeted policy campaigns.