NEW YORK (January 6, 2017) – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) commends the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for today’s announcement on the decision to deny six permit applications for airgun seismic surveys in the Mid- and South Atlantic waters of the eastern United States. On April 14th 2016, WCS joined several partners in a letter to President Obama urging a halt to these permits for seismic surveys in important marine habitats.

The following statement was released by Dr. John Robinson, Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science for WCS:

“WCS applauds the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for today’s announcement on the denial of seismic survey permit applications for oil and gas along the mid and southeastern Atlantic coastal areas. It’s a great start for 2017 and efforts to protect marine life and their important habitats along the East Coast.

“One beneficiary of the new decision will be the North Atlantic right whale, one of the world’s most endangered whale species with only about 500 individuals remaining and may be in decline. Like other great whale species, the North Atlantic right whale was almost wiped out by commercial whaling. In our letter to the President, we noted that the right whale’s declining population growth rate is thought to be directly linked to the disproportionately high level of human activity occurring along the US East Coast range, resulting in entanglements in fishing gear, ship strike risks, underwater noise impacts, and exposures to other chronic stressors.

“The mid- and southeastern coastal areas of the United States—places for which the seismic survey permits were being considered—are also critical wintering and calving grounds for the North Atlantic right whale. The blasts emitted from airguns used in the search for oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor could impact and disrupt essential communications and lead to increased stress for these marine mammals. Mother and calf pairs would also have been at considerable risk in important habitats filled with airgun blasts.

“Today’s decision by BOEM to deny these seismic survey permits is one important step for helping to safeguard the North Atlantic right whale—one of the largest animal species on earth—and the diversity of ocean life along the shores of the U.S.”