Groups sue to stop Trump administration’s oil exploration blasts off Atlantic coast

right whales
Right whales. NOAA photo

A coalition of environmental groups on Tuesday sued the federal government to stop seismic air gun blasting off the Atlantic coast – a precursor to offshore oil drilling that scientists say harms marine creatures, including the extremely rare right whales which give birth off Florida’s coast.

“The Trump administration is letting the oil industry launch a brutal sonic assault on North Atlantic right whales and other marine life,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Right whales will keep spiraling toward extinction if we don’t stop these deafening blasts and the drilling and spilling that could come next. That’s why we’re taking the administration to court.”

The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Oceana, One Hundred Miles, Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation filed the joint lawsuit to block the National Marine Fisheries Service from authorizing five companies to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Defenders of Wildlife, North Carolina Coastal Federation, and One Hundred Miles. The national nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation

The suit asserts that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations in late November. Those permits authorize the five companies to harm or harass marine mammals while conducting seismic airgun blasting in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Cape May, New Jersey to Cape Canaveral. The legal complaint is HERE.

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued the “incidental harassment” permits to five companies on November 30, 2018. Before those companies can begin seismic airgun blasting, they must also receive permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

North American right whales are among the Earth’s rarest creatures. Only about 400 remain, with just 100  breeding females. As the Phoenix reported, each year the whales perform a  1,000-mile migration from Nova Scotia to as far south as Cape Canaveral, where they give birth off our Atlantic coast – the only known breeding ground.

Except last year. For the first time since scientists have been watching, last year there were no right whale calves born at all.

 

 

 

Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

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