Assateague Coastal Trust
ACT To Protect Our Coastal Bays
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Protect Our Coast!

Major Victory for the Atlantic, Threats Still Remain

In 2015, we launched a campaign to protect Assateague Island and the other coastal communities of Delmarva from the dual threat of offshore drilling and airgun seismic surveys. In partnership with citizens and community groups all along the Delmarva Peninsula, we worked to pass 8 resolutions opposing both offshore drilling and airgun seismic surveys in Delaware and Maryland. Those resolutions joined the chorus of over 120 other coastal communities, representing 86% of the coastal towns, cities, and counties from Delaware south to Cape Canaveral, Florida, in saying NO to offshore drilling and seismic airguns in our Atlantic Ocean.

On Tuesday, March 15th, our collective voice was heard and the Obama Administration decided to remove the Atlantic leasing areas from the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The administration cited the overwhelming flood of concerns from citizens and stakeholders as one of the primary factors in their decision to remove the Atlantic.

While this demonstration of democracy in action should be celebrated, it is only a partial victory in our campaign to protect the Atlantic and our coast. The threat of seismic airgun surveys still remain.

8 companies have submitted permits requesting permission to conduct airgun seismic surveys in the Atlantic, 7 of which plan to conduct these surveys of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Click on the Map to Enlarge

Each colored block on this map represents an airgun survey permit submitted to the Bureau of Energy Management. Information collected in these surveys is proprietary meaning it doesn’t have to be shared. This could lead to the same area of ocean being mapped multiple times by multiple companies greatly amplifying the environmental impact.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is currently reviewing all 8 of these permit applications and must issue an Incidental Harassment Authorization for the permit process to proceed. This authorization essentially gives permission to carry out activities that could potentially impact species listed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. If NMFS issues this authorization, the permits will then be open to public comment before the ultimate approval decision is made.

It is essential that we remain vigilant and, if a public comment period opens, ensure our voices and the voice of the Atlantic is heard.

We will be monitoring these permits and updating our website as information becomes available. If you’d like to receive email updates on this issue. Please sign up for our eNewsletter.



The Danger in Mapping – Seismic Airguns

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Seismic testing for offshore oil and gas entails firing a seismic air cannon into the ocean and recording the reflection of sound waves every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the duration of the mapping project, which can last multiple weeks.

The cannon fires a sonic burst at 190 decibels (db). That’s louder than a 747 jet and 10db above the level permanent hearing damage occurs in humans.



The BOEM Estimates 138,000 Whales and Dolphins will be Injured by Seismic Testing!

In their own report, the BOEM estimates 138,000 whales and dolphins will be impacted and potential casualties of seismic testing. Seismic testing will take place off the Atlantic coast from Delaware south to Florida.

The endangered right whale calving ground lies off the South Carolina coast, directly in the path of proposed seismic testing

This is home to important breeding grounds for numerous whale and dolphin species, including the endangered right whale. This species only has 435 members left in existence and their breeding ground lies directly in the path of the proposed seismic testing sites.


Seismic Testing Has Been Linked To Mass Deaths Before

A study conducted by the International Whaling Commission found that the mass stranding of over 100 melon-headed whales in Madagascar was a direct result of seismic mapping of the sea floor by ExxonMobile. The deaths of over 900 dolphins and 1500 sea birds in Peru in 2012 have also been linked to seismic mapping. Mass strandings in New Zealand and the UK of dolphins have been linked to seismic testing as well.



Seismic Testing will Impact Fisheries

Seismic testing has been shown to have damaging effects to juvenile fish and planktonic fish eggs. It has also scared away fish from commercially vital fisheries. Seismic testing off of Namibia for instance led to dramatic declines in tuna catches. Because of the migratory nature of Mid and South Atlantic fish species like wahoo, swordfish, and billfish, any impact from seismic testing will likely quickly spread beyond the survey areas.

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Impacts to migratory fish like White Marlins from seismic testing will quickly spread well outside the survey areas.

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Over 900 dolphins washed ashore in Peru after seismic testing by oil companies there in 2012

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