by Patricia A. Miller
Members of the environmental coalition Clean Ocean Action are urging Ocean County residents to oppose plans for seismic testing of seafloor sediments 15 miles off Barnegat Bay.
Clean Ocean Action and a number of other groups will hold a meeting at 5 p.m. on July 2 at the Barnegat Light Firehouse at 110 West 10th Street in Barnegat Light. Gov. Chris Christie has been invited.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the National Science Foundation want to study sea floor sediments to track historical changes in sea level from 60 million years ago through the present.
But that would involve using seismic airguns to shoot blasts of compressed air deep into the seabed, similar to the process used to locate buried oil and gas deposits.
The blasting would last for 720 hours over a 30-day period and would impact 26 marine mammals species, including bottlenose dolphins, whales and sea turtles. It would also affect vital coastal industries, including commercial and recreational fisheries and tourism, Clean Ocean Action says.
“The study would send seismic blasts of up to 250 decibels into the water every 5 seconds, 24 hours a day for 30 days, interfering with marine animal communication and movement," Cassandra Ornell, a staff scientist with Clean Ocean Action. "By comparison, impairment of human hearing begins after 30 seconds of exposure at 115 decibels. Marine animals are much more sensitive to sound than people are.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently denied New Jersey’s request to review the Rutgers University led seismic study off Barnegat Inlet for agreement with state regulations.
The denial "blindsided" Clean Ocean Action and other groups, said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action.
"We trust Governor Christie and the NJDEP will use all legal and state means available to stop this study," Zipf said. "The clock is ticking and this study must not go forward—especially now."The study could be halted it the state's review found impacts on state resources, Clean Ocean Action says in the release.
"Although the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) submitted strong comments for its right to this review, which detailed threats to coastal resources and the economy, NOAA’s denial argued the “timeliness” of the request and ignored the state’s concerns," the release states.
Ocean Action has been tracking the Marcus G. Langseth, the vessel that
will be conducting the seismic blasting, by checking its location twice a
day on the website marinetraffic.com.
The ship was docked in Charleston, South Carolina until around midnight on June 23.
"Now it is on the move and heading north," according to Clean Ocean Action
Click here for Clean Ocean Action's fact sheet on the seismic blasting.
For more information call Clean Ocean Action at 732-872-0111, or e-mail Cassandra Ornell at firstname.lastname@example.org.