STATE — A proposal submitted by Columbia and other universities, including Rutgers, seeking permission from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to conduct marine seismic surveys 15 miles off the coast of Barnegat this summer, purportedly to study climate change, is being challenged by environmental groups and lawmakers as a potential danger to the ocean and the commercial fishing industry.
Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Roy Diehl, president of the Belford Seafood Cooperative and other environmental leaders spoke out against the potentially damaging impacts of proposed seismic testing off the coast of New Jersey.
“An environmentally sound coast is critical to New Jersey, and I remain concerned with any activity that could threaten the environment and our local economy, especially the fishing community,” said Pallone. “Marine seismic surveys could be used to justify offshore drilling. They also risk injuring and disturbing critically endangered species.”
“The NMFS authorization of marine mammal takes does not address the entirety of impacts on marine life; this is why we need more time,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action. “The sound blasts will be several orders of magnitude louder than a jet engine at takeoff, every five seconds, all day every day for 30 days, wreaking havoc on marine life up and down the Jersey Shore.”
Pallone wrote to Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expressing his concern that the results of new proposed seismic testing off the coast could potentially be used to open up the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration.
Pallone requested that the agency grant a 60-day extension of public comment and hold a public hearing to sufficiently review the application submitted to the NMFS.
Zipf said when she first got wind of the proposal, she noticed it was nearly identical to one for testing for oil and natural gas deposits.
“The decibel range, the loud ocean blasts are the same,” Zipf said. “The purpose is to go down and evaluate sediment between 30 and 60 million years ago, to look for climate change affects. That depth also includes the depth where there is methane hydrates. Methane hydrates are frozen natural gas, so they will be assessing, whether they know it or not, the energy potential in that area.”
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