Posted by Rick Civelli | 04.30.2012 | Conservation

Help Protect our Coasts

Every day we face tradeoffs, and now both the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic states face one that has the possibility to irrevocably change the future of our coasts. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has been touring the East Coast from Jacksonville, Florida to Wilmington, Delaware with a plan outlining exploration of offshore oil and gas resources.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) proposal has three different derivations, all with varying degrees of invasiveness. The three options – Alternative A, Alternative B, and Alternative C – are briefly discussed below:

  • Alternative A. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will use depth sounders, magnetometers, side scan sonar, and sub-bottom profilers to survey different ocean areas. These devices could pose problems to marine life – from small, sessile invertebrates to large pelagic organisms. The one concession granted is a time-area closure for the North Atlantic right whale calving areas, but this only applies to parts of Florida.
  • Alternative B. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will use the same techniques to survey, but in addition to the partial right whale closure, they also concede a time-area closure for nesting sea turtles, but only for Brevard County, Florida.
  • Alternative C. This option advocates no action for oil and gas exploration maintaining the offshore exploration ban.

While the use of these acoustic techniques can be extremely disruptive for marine life, particularly mammals that use echolocation, our biggest objection is the devaluation and exploitation of our coasts. North Atlantic right whales don’t solely calve off Florida, as evidenced by Calvin, a uniquely named female who has twice calved in North Carolina waters. And if her reproductive cycle remains consistent, we’ll probably see her again this December, possibly calving off Wrightsville Beach. And the right whales certainly pass through North Carolina waters on their migration.

Nor do sea turtles exclusively nest off central Florida. Topsail Island in North Carolina alone had 110 nests last year – that was over 9,000 live hatchlings starting life on our coast. In total, North Carolina had 967 nests, Georgia had 2004, and South Carolina had 4027 nests in 2011 alone. Whether whale or sea turtle, each juvenile represents a significant portion of these species threatened and endangered species populations. Their protection should extend beyond a sliver of North Carolina.

The resources off our coast are not great enough to reliably diminish our reliance on foreign sources. The only hope for that is consistent development of renewable energy sources. The resources we should be looking after don’t lie in oil and mineral deposits buried under the sediment. They swim, float, glide, fly, breach, and settle throughout our oceans. Let us hope that future generations get to see them.

Please support Alternative C and give the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management your feedback at: