Trump moves forward with seismic testing for offshore oil exploration

Because apparently "harassing" endangered whales is no big deal:

The Trump administration on Friday authorized use of seismic air guns to find oil and gas formations deep underneath the Atlantic Ocean floor, reversing Obama administration policies and drawing outrage from critics who say the practice can disturb or injure whales, sea turtles and other marine life. The surveys are part of President Donald Trump's bid to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

Administration officials said that under terms of the law that protects marine life, the permits would allow "harassment" of whales and sea turtles but would not allow companies to kill them.

As horrific as that sounds, it's actually an understatement. The ruling actually allows for "incidental" injury to sea life, as long as it's not "intentional." Think about that. By injecting "intent" into the formula, they could kill as many whales, dolphins, and turtles as it is necessary to get the readings they need, as long as they say, "Oops!" when they do it. And this "protection" is laughable:

Survey vessels will be required to have observers on board to listen and watch for marine life and alert operators if a protected species comes within a certain distance, officials said, and acoustic monitoring will be used to detect those swimming beneath the ocean surface.

Surveys will be shut down when certain sensitive species or groups are observed and penalties can be imposed for vessels that strike marine animals, officials said.

Guidelines do not specify 3rd-party observers, so these people will be employed by the oil exploration company. So don't hold your breath waiting for reports of contact with protected species.

And in case you're wondering if this "harassment" will actually result in fatalities of whales, NOAA Fisheries already knows it will:

The final estimated exposures of ESA-listed cetaceans to airgun sounds at or exceeding 160 dB re: 1 µPa (rms), and thus considered to be takes by Level B harassment under the MMPA and for the purposes of this consultation takes by harassment under the ESA, are shown below in Table 10. Conservatively, we rounded up North Atlantic right whale exposure estimates and for the remaining species, rounded down any reduction in exposure that resulted from the proposed time-area closures (i.e., assumed less take was avoided).

Based on data from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium Database provided by T. Gowan (Gowan personal communication to E. Patterson on November 8, 2017), consisting of standardized sighting records of North Atlantic right whales from 2005 to 2013 from South Carolina to Florida, of the total 23 exposures of North Atlantic right whales, we expect four to be of adult females with calves, two to be of adult females without calves, five to be of adult males, 11 to be of juveniles (either sex), three to be of calves (either sex), one to be of an adult of unknown sex, and two to be of animals of unknown age and sex (age class estimates sum to greater than 23 due to conservative rounding up). For the remaining species, we currently lack sufficient information to determine the age-sex class the Level B exposures in Table 10 represent. As such, we assume that the below Level B exposures may be of any age-sex class of sei, fin, blue, and sperm whale.

Just to translate the jargon, a "take" is when a sea creature is killed, whether "intentionally" or "incidentally." The North Atlantic Right Whale is near the top of the endangered species list, with only somewhere between 300-400 remaining. And that number is about to drop, thanks to Donald Trump.

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