WDC joins US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel in applauding President Obama’s announcement to withdraw portions of the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean from oil and gas extraction. Nearly 4 million acres of water from Massachusetts through Delaware, along with 115 million acres of the US Arctic waters, will be protected. Working as part of a coalition of groups opposing offshore drilling and exploration, WDC is celebrating this victory which will protect thousands of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
While today’s announcement is welcome, WDC remains concerned about the potential for seismic testing along the southeast US, the only known calving habitat for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Earlier this year, President Obama announced a five year ban on drilling in the southeast Atlantic after receiving significant opposition from environmental groups and coastal communities, but did not prevent companies from using seismic air guns to locate mineral deposits. The loud pulsing sounds produced 24 hours a day are known to harass, harm, and even kill whales and dolphins.
Emerging research underscores the critical role whales play in the ecosystem from helping to offset climate change to supplying nutrients to phytoplankton which produces most of the world’s oxygen and is the base on which fish stocks depend. According to Regina Asmutis-Silvia, WDC NA executive director, “President Obama has not only helped to fight climate change by banning drilling in these areas, but also by keeping whales safe and allowing them to do their jobs as ecosystem engineers. This is a win for whales and for our climate.”