Pallone Leads NJ Members in Calling on NOAA to Reduce Ocean Noise and Prevent Seismic Testing in the Atlantic Ocean

Oct 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led a letter from members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), applauding the agency’s recently released Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap, which proposes numerous measures to reduce ocean noise, and urging NOAA to take immediate steps to implement the plan.  The New Jersey members also requested that NOAA reject applications to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean, which could harm marine mammals and other wildlife, as well as coastal communities which rely on tourism and recreational and commercial fishing.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote, “We are very concerned about increasing amount of human-created noise in our oceans – particularly its impact on marine mammals, wildlife, and ecosystems.  Fortunately, NOAA is moving in the right direction with the release of the Roadmap to develop a strategy of dealing with our increasingly noisy oceans… We urge NOAA to move quickly to fully implement the recommendations contained in the plan.  That should include leveraging all existing agency resources and authorities to formulate directives and take action.  In doing so, NOAA will demonstrate its commitment to this important plan.”

In addition to Pallone, Representatives Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Donald M. Payne, Jr.(NJ-10) and Albio Sires (NJ-08) signed onto the letter. 

 

The full text of the letter follows.

October 13, 2016

 

 

The Honorable Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D 

Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 5128

Dear Dr. Sullivan:

We write regarding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recent release of its Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap.  We are very pleased that NOAA has taken this important step to protect and ensure the health of our oceans, and urge NOAA to work swiftly to issue directives to fully achieve the goals of the Roadmap.

We are very concerned about increasing amount of human-created noise in our oceans – particularly its impact on marine mammals, wildlife, and ecosystems.  Fortunately, NOAA is moving in the right direction with the release of the Roadmap to develop a strategy of dealing with our increasingly noisy oceans.  We are pleased that the Roadmap relies on a multi-pronged approach: specifically focusing on management of and coordination between different NOAA offices; ensuring the use of the best science to improve monitoring; developing processes and tools to best map species and affected area; and engaging and collaborating with stakeholders.

We urge NOAA to move quickly to fully implement the recommendations contained in the plan.  That should include leveraging all existing agency resources and authorities to formulate directives and take action.  In doing so, NOAA will demonstrate its commitment to this important plan.

NOAA can and should take further steps to reduce ocean noise by denying several pending Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) applications currently under review at NOAA Fisheries. These IHA applications were filed by companies that have applied for permits with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

As you know, seismic testing involves using large, seismic airguns, towed behind ships, to fire loud blasts of air at the ocean floor for oil, gas, and other mineral exploration as often as every 10 seconds. Testing on this scale would be unprecedented and the cumulative and direct effects on marine mammals and other marine wildlife could be severe. Coastal communities in New Jersey could be hurt too, since tourism and recreational and commercial fishing are important economic drivers for the Jersey Shore.

Indeed, it would be puzzling for NOAA Fisheries to approve these IHA applications less than a year after the Department of the Interior recognized the importance of protecting the Atlantic Ocean by removing it from its 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  Since no drilling can be conducted in this region for the next five years, exploratory seismic testing would add needless ocean noise in direct contradiction to the Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap.  Without NOAA approval, BOEM cannot issue seismic testing permits.  Rejecting the applications would be a strong sign of commitment to the Roadmap.

We applaud NOAA on issuing the final Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap. This action is an important step towards protecting the health of our oceans, especially marine mammals, fish, and other wildlife.  We strongly encourage NOAA to put resources into implementing the Roadmap, and to be willing to use existing authority to achieve its noise reduction goals.  We look forward to the benefits our coastal communities will realize from the implementation of the Roadmap

Sincerely,