Wednesday, May 27, 2015


In response to recent criticism about their Summer 2015 Rutgers Seismic Study, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO) has often said that their past studies have not led to marine mammal strandings. Clean Ocean Action expressed concerns during the project’s comment period this Spring regarding the project and the potential for marine mammal beachings. In response, L-DEO stated in its study’s 2015 Issued Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) “that Lamont-Doherty has not ever experienced a stranding event associated with their activities during the past 10 years that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued Authorizations to them. In the past decade of seismic surveys conducted carried out by the Langseth, protected species observers and other crew members have neither observed nor reported any seismic-related marine mammal injuries or mortalities.”

This statement fails to consider the repercussions of different studies conducted by the Observatory’s other boats over a lengthier period of time. In 2002 (13 years ago), L-DEO was taken to a U.S. District Court by the Center for Biological Diversity regarding the strandings of a pair of Cuvier beaked whales in the Gulf of California. These whales, which are widely known as the deepest diving marine mammals, often frequent depths of over 3,300 ft and typically avoid ships. However, their lengthy deep dives and ship avoidance were not enough to protect them from the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the area. The off-duty NMFS scientists that found the beached whales found no physical indication of harm, but rather reddening of the cheeks, a symptom of physiological distress, hinting that the whales likely died due to burst blood vessels in their heads. As a result, a U.S. Magistrate Judge issued a temporary restraining order against the project, and all machinery was shut off immediately.

In this particular case, Lamont-Doherty was not using the Langseth, but rather the Maurice Ewing. However, despite the name difference, the project’s purpose closely resembles their proposed study off of the Atlantic coast. Beginning September 18, 2002, the research vessel started conducting seismic testing by traveling in a zigzag pattern off the shore of the Baja peninsula in an effort to map a rift that had been caused by continental plate shifts. Similar to the conducted 2014 study and the proposed 2015 study off of the coast of New Jersey, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was a sponsor to the 2002 Pacific Ocean study.

In the 2002 case, the Center for Biological Diversity claimed that the NSF’s seismic study violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which require the government to analyze the ecological impacts of studies as well as minimize the potential disruption of marine mammals. The NSF argued that due to the study’s location in Mexican waters, the NEPA and MMPA would not apply. However, it became clear quickly that the effects of the study would have implications for marine life far beyond international borders.

In 2005, the Maurice Ewing was used in a seismic study off of the Yucatan Peninsula for a project under the NSP, Lamont-Doherty and the University of Texas. Concerned scientists and environmentalists pointed to the 2002 California whale beachings as a cause for concern regarding the project in the Gulf. In addition, Rosario Sosa, former president of the Association for the Rights of Animals and their Habitat, said that activists had come across dead dolphins and turtles in Campeche, where seismic pulses were used to explore for oil.

L-DEO’s response to Clean Ocean Action’s concern fails to consider a wealth of information that can drastically affect how the project is perceived by the public. By only analyzing data within the last decade, they fail to include the previous strandings that were on record. In addition, they fail to consider harm done by other NSF vessels, and mention only the Langseth. While at the surface, these might appear to be minor oversights, the lack of consideration and analysis pose a significant threat to marine mammal, turtle and fish stocks off of the coast of New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Senator Booker Urges NOAA Administrator to Withdraw Seismic IHA

US Senator Booker wrote to Dr. Sullivan, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, formally requesting that the National Marine Fisheries Service withdraw the Incidental Harassment Authorization needed for the Rutgers seismic study to legally harass marine mammals and reopen the comment period so that concerned organizations and the public are given a meaningful opportunity to review this survey. Senator Booker cited the exponential increase in the number of marine mammals estimated to be harassed and the methodology used to calculate the new numbers as justification for withdrawal of the authorization and a reopening of the comment period. In addition, Senator Booker reiterated his support for the NJDEP’s concerns with the proposed project’s impact on New Jersey’s coastal resources and desire for the ongoing mediation process between the NJDEP and the National Science Foundation (as lead agency for this survey) to conclude before any permits are issued by NOAA.

Clean Ocean Action applauds Senator Booker’s close analysis of the proposed project and its impact on New Jersey’s marine life and economy and is looking forward to Dr. Sullivan’s response.  

State Senate President Sweeney & Congressman Pallone Urge President Barchi to Cancel Seismic Study

On May 22, 2015, NJ Senate President Sweeney, in conjunction with US Congressman Pallone, authored a letter directed to Rutgers University President Barchi, urging him, as President of the University leading the seismic survey, to halt the proposed actions immediately. Citing the disruptive impact and damaging effects of seismic testing on the marine environment, especially the impact to the recreational and commercial fishing industries which operate at peak capacity during the summer months, Congressman Pallone and Senator Sweeney, emphasized that Rutgers University should “aspire to be a good state citizen by minimizing negative impacts to our residents, businesses, and the environment.” The letter stressed how critical a healthy ocean ecosystem is to the economy of NJ, as almost 10,000 jobs are produced from the recreational and commercial fishing industries alone, not including the ancillary jobs necessary to support vibrant summer tourism based economy for many communities.

Clean Ocean Action thanks Senate President Sweeney and Congressman Pallone for their effective advocacy in support of a productive and intact marine environment.

Find a copy of the letter here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Help Save Dolphins Off the Jersey Shore - Call & Email Rutgers President Barchi Today!

Rutgers Ocean blasting study is back with vengeance, 26 times worse than originally proposed! If permitted, the Rutgers study can cause any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance to 18,457 marine mammals, including over 12,500 bottlenose dolphins and their infant calves. This exponential increase should be shocking to Rutgers University, especially its researchers, faculty, President and Board of Trustees.  Rutgers should stop this study, now!

The relentless seismic blasts from the air-gun array at 246 decibels every 5-6 seconds, 24 hours a day for 30 days can cause serious harm. The newly issued Incidental Harassment Authorization by federal officials would allow the harassment of over 32 species, mostly bottlenose dolphins-including newborn calves, as well as endangered species  such as the northern right whale, humpback, sei, fin, blue and sperm whales. In addition, five species of endangered sea turtles will also be harmed including the Kemps Ridley-the rarest and most critically endangered! 

Please help to save New Jersey marine life by calling and emailing Rutgers University President Barchi urging him to cancel the seismic study to avoid harm to marine mammals during peak summer months for migration and breeding! The 60 million year old rocks they are studying would still be there in January, when less marine life will be in the area.


Sample Message for email:

Dear President Barchi,

I care about the ocean and marine life because ________________________________________

Please cancel the Rutgers University seismic study off the coast of Barnegat Inlet. The study would allow "any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance" of 18,457 marine mammals, 26 times the amount proposed last year. This includes over 12,000 bottle nosed dolphin and their infant calves.  

Rutgers must also be shocked at the level of harm; it is unconscionable and cannot be allowed.  The ocean blasting will also harm fishing, diving, and tourism activities, especially during the summer when marine life is at the peak of breeding and migrating.  Though there is no good time to conduct this study, during the winter less marine life would be threatened.

I believe you should stop this study because ___________________________________________

Stop the study, now!

 Thank you!

Sample Tweets:

@RutgersU seismic study will harm of 18,457 marine mammals #RUserious urge RU to cancel the study #RUflippincrazy #saveNJMarineLife

@RutgersU will blast the ocean at 246 decibels every 5-6 seconds, 24 hours a day for 30 days this summer #RUflippincrazy #SaveNJMarineLife

18,131 dolphins could be harmed during the @RutgersU seismic study. #RU flipping serious?! #RUflippincrazy #SaveNJMarineLife

Call @RutgersU President Barchi urging him to cancel the seismic study #RUlflippincrazy #saveNJMarinelife 

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