Earlier this month, more than 4,800 state residents from Nags Head and other NC municipalities, such as Oak Island, Carolina Beach and Topsail Beach, submitted concerns to the Obama Administration opposing the use of seismic airguns along the NC coast. The residents have asked President Obama to prohibit the use of these airguns, which they believe will help protect both area marine life and coastal economies.
Fossil fuel industries use seismic airguns to find gas and oil deposits located deep beneath the ocean floor. As a boat moves through the water surveying an area, airgun arrays are dragged along behind. Every 10 to 15 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks on end, the airguns shoot loud blasts of compressed air down through the water and miles into the floor of the ocean. Information then reflects back to the water’s surface, where it is captured by audio monitors, providing the location of hidden gas and oil deposits.
According to sources, the dynamite-like blasts are incredibly loud; their intensity is compared to being 100,000 times more powerful than the sound of a jet engine. As a result, the noise can often be heard thousands of miles away from the actual blast zone. The people of Nags Head and other NC municipalities oppose the use of seismic airguns because they recognize the negative impact that using them would have on marine life.
However, North Carolina is not the only area under threat of seismic airgun use. The entire Atlantic coastline is being targeted by big oil companies who hope to search for gas and oil. If approved, the process could turn an area of ocean, twice the size of California, into a blast zone, which could devastate marine life.
The ocean is a world of sound where many animals depend on their ability to hear as a means to communicate with each other, find food, and survive. If seismic airguns are allowed to be used, it is expected that millions of marine lives, including more than 138,000 mammals, such as whales and dolphins, will be disrupted with many suffering injury or death. Those that survive the blasts may have temporary or permanent hearing loss and may abandon their habitats. In addition, the health of regional fisheries would be threatened along with half a million jobs of people who depend on a healthy ocean as a means to make a living.
Soon, the Obama administration will decide whether they will allow seismic airguns, which are not only a dangerous method for searching for gas and oil, but are also the first step toward expanding offshore drilling to the east coast. Over 100,000 petitions have been sent to the White House in opposition of seismic airgun use. These efforts have delayed the decision to allow seismic blasting along the Atlantic coast; however, the battle is far from being won as big oil companies prepare to push harder than ever before for what they want.
Nags Head and other NC municipalities as well as dozens of others up and down the Atlantic coastline stand firm and are pushing back just as hard. They hope their efforts will prevent seismic airgun use and end east coast drilling before it can begin.
By Donna W. Martin