coa stop ocean blastingPHOTO: Citizens rally Wednesday to Stop Ocean Blasting.  Photo courtesy, Linda Baum.

‘State fights for our Ocean’s Independence from Harm’

Sandy Hook— The State of New Jersey entered federal court in Trenton Thursday in an effort to stop the ocean blasting from beginning at the most biologically important season. 

“We salute the State of New Jersey for defending our ocean and natural resources from this outrageous and needless harm,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action.  

 

The case results from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management denial of New Jersey’s legitimate request to review the study to ensure it would not harm NJ resources, and following the federal issuance of permits on Wednesday to allow the study to go forward.

“Our state has the right and the obligation to review any federal activity to protect marine life that also support thousands jobs. We were shocked NOAA said no,” said Cindy Zipf executive Director of Clean Ocean Action.  “ As we celebrate this holiday weekend, New Jersey is fighting for the ocean’s independence from harm," she added.

This legal action follows a rally Wednesday night of hundreds of citizens, Congressman Frank LoBiondo, commercial and recreational fishing leaders, scientists, divers, elected officials, marine mammal protectors—who gathered at an emergency meeting in Barnegat Light to express outrage that the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Science Foundation swiftly signed documents issued the appalling authorization to put hundreds of whales, dolphins, and thousands of other marine life at grave risk. The ship started out there before the final documents were made publicly available.

The crowd rallied when Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said,  “I just received a note from NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin in which he says,"...the Christie Administration is prepared to take legal action in federal court to seek judicial intervention in this matter. We are now in the process of preparing  legal papers to seek injunctive relief in the courts.  We intend to file the legal papers tomorrow (Thursday)." 

The fight is not over. 

A large coalition of groups organized the meeting which was highlighted by a panel of speakers that included:US Representative Frank LoBiondo; Mayor Kirk Larson, Barnegat Light; Bob Schoelkopf, Director, Marine Mammal Stranding Center; Raymond Bogan, Esq., Board Secretary, Marine Trades Association of New Jersey; Jim Donofrio, Executive Director, Recreational Fishing Alliance; andCaptain Kevin Wark, Captain of the fishing vessel "Dana Christine" - Barnegat Light

"As migrating marine life arrives and tourists flock to enjoy the Jersey Shore, moving forward with seismic testing comes at the worst possible time. I am outraged that the National Science Foundation is choosing to push ahead despite growing and justified opposition. I remain committed to fighting this severely misguided plan with Clean Ocean Action, local communities, our fishermen and their allies," said Congressman Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02).

“I am concerned by NOAA's decision to authorize seismic testing by the National Science Foundation,” read by Zach McCue, from the office of US Senator Booker. “This permitting will allow harmful underwater seismic airgun blasts to be used just 15 miles from Long Beach Island, overlooking the harmful effects this testing can have on recreational and commercial fishing, marine mammals, and sea turtles during the peak summer season. I stand with Clean Ocean Action, New Jersey residents and our coastal communities against this testing.” 

Robert Schoelkopf, Founding Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said, "The proposed seismic testing will come at the most productive time in the ocean; this will be detrimental to all marine life."

Raymond Bogan Esq., Board Secretary of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey said, “If an honest cost/benefit analysis is done for this project, it will be stopped dead in its tracks. To the extent that the data they are seeking is valuable, we contend that it can be obtained with far less damaging and intrusive measures. The damage the blasting can impose on the marine environment, and the communities that depend on that marine environment, could be permanent and is so significant that it should outweigh some inconvenience that comes with using other means of getting the information.”

Captain Kevin Wark, from the commercial vessel Dana Christine,said, "No one has given us assurances that this testing isn't going to hurt commercial fishing; there have been no hearings or studies that tell us that this won't be harmful.  I also find it hard to understand why there's no accountability about the possibility of damage to marine mammals when the commercial fishing industry is held to such high standards with regard to the health and safety of marine mammals.”    

In addition to Congressman Frank LoBIondo, who has been a longtime champion of ocean and marine issues and represents Long Beach Island and a vast swath of the Atlantic coast, and Mayor Kirk Larson of Barnegat Light, other elected officials present included mayors from up and down Long Beach Island and beyond.

The meeting was sponsored by the Anglers Conservation Network; Berkeley Striper Club; Clean Ocean Action; CWA local1075; Captain Paul Eidman - Reel Therapy Fly and Light Tackle Charters; Mayor Kirk Larson - Barnegat Light; Jersey Coast Anglers Association;  New Jersey Beach Buggy Association; New Jersey Council of Divers; New Jersey Outdoor Alliance; New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs; Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative; Recreational Fishing Alliance; Save Barnegat Bay; Surfrider Foundation Mid-Atlantic Region; Capt Eddie Yates - United Boatman of New Jersey; and Viking Village.

 BACKGROUND:

The Rutgers University led study will be conducted off Barnegat Light to examine 60 million-year-old sediments for historical sea level changes; however, despite Rutgers’ claims, the study is being conducted during peak migration and/or breeding of whales, dolphins, turtles, fish, and shellfish.  Divers are also at risk.

"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.  By way of 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,” said Cassandra Ornell, Staff Scientist at Clean Ocean Action."

Marine life at risk includes:

·      26 marine mammal species, including 6 endangered whale species and other whales, dolphins, and seals, may be located in or moving through the study area. Seismic blasting can interfere with marine mammal movement, breathing, communication, and feeding, and can even cause hearing damage.

·      Nine of the 16 most important offshore commercial fisheries are at their peaks in the summer months. Seismic blasts can cause fish and squid to scatter and impact catch rates.

·      New Jersey offshore waters are host to five threatened or endangered sea turtle species. Sea turtles exposed to much lower sound levels than proposed in this study have shown significant behavioral impacts.

 

Clean Ocean Action is a non-profit, broad-based coalition of 135 conservation, environmental, fishing, boating, diving, student, surfing, women’s, business, service, and community groups, with a mission to improve the degraded water quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey/New York coast. COA has a decades-long history of science- and law-based advocacy for a clean, industry-free Atlantic Ocean.