Against a natural sonic backdrop of gentle waves, distant earthquakes and mating calls, the ocean has become a cacophonous place. For the dolphins and whales, turtles and fish, the artificial hum of ships, the moans of sonars and burst of seismic booms, well, the persistent racket is getting on their last good nerve.
But the sea could become even noisier under President-to-be Donald Trump. Pro-drilling, pro-fossil fuels, Trump could open the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration, activities that not only can damage the environment but also harm aquatic life.
NOAA released an Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap to address the effects of noise on protected marine species. The impacts of noise on them are in some ways, similar to the impacts on people. Think about how you feel when you’re subjected to sirens, jackhammers, low-flying planes, car alarms, barking dogs, the neighbor mowing at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.
Underwater, mammals can go deaf, fish can change the direction of their schools, mating falls off. The species release stress hormones and their immune systems suffer. They can’t communicate with their families.
There is a patchwork of regulations to try to diminish the effects of underwater noise, but Trump’s opposition to restricting business, especially as it relates to oil and gas exploration, could foil even those basic efforts.
Elizabeth Ouzts at Southeast Energy News recently reported that the specter of a Trump presidency has compelled coastal advocates and businesses to urge President Obama to bar future oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic.
Although the Obama administration had proposed allowing the sale of leases along the coast from Virginia to the Georgia, including North Carolina, opposition forced it to change course. Now there will be no leases in the Atlantic for another six years.
But there is no permanent drilling ban, and seismic testing can continue. That means Trump could undo Obama’s minor progress on this front, while ocean noise can proceed unabated.