CoastLine: Zooplankton Mortality From Seismic Airgun Shocks Scientific Community

Aug 10, 2017

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in late April to expand energy exploration drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.  The order puts in place a new five-year program, 2019-2024, that will supersede the earlier one – essentially reversing the Obama Administration’s decision to remove the mid-Atlantic region from consideration for offshore drilling. 

What’s different about this issue compared to so many other national points of debate – is that support or opposition doesn’t necessarily fall along predictable party lines. 

Even in the state of North Carolina – Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Republican Congressman Walter Jones have both declared their strong opposition to oil and gas exploration off the North Carolina Coast.  Fellow Republican Representative David Rouzer of North Carolina’s 7th District – which includes coastal areas – supports it. 

On this edition of CoastLine, we’re not seeking input from policy advocates on one side or the other.  Rather, we hear from two scientists who can help us understand the new data that does exist about potential impacts and how this process could unfold. 


Doug Nowacek is the Repass-Rodgers Chair of Marine Conservation Technology at the Nicholas School of the Environment & Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. 

Ann Pabst is a Professor of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.   She is also President-elect of the Society for Marine Mammalogy

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is soliciting information and requesting comments on the preparation of a new five-year National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024 pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act. Upon completion, the National OCS Program for 2019-2024 will replace the National OCS Program for 2017-2022 (2017-2022 Program), which was approved on January 17, 2017, and will succeed the National OCS Program for 2012-2017 on July 1, 2017.

The public comment period is open until August 17, 2017.

Further resources:

Article on the study examining the mortality rate of zooplankton after the use of a seismic air gun:

NOAA Incidental Harassment Authorization website:

Incidental Harassment Authorization applications pending for seismic surveys: