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Shelley Vinyard,
Environment North Carolina

Threat to wildlife in focus after record attendance at offshore drilling meeting

For Immediate Release

Raleigh, NC- From spills soaking sea birds in oil, to seismic exploration putting whales and dolphins at risk, each stage of offshore drilling threatens precious Atlantic marine life, says an analysis from Environment North Carolina. The new document detailing the threats drilling poses to sea animals comes after hundreds of North Carolinians attended a Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management public meeting about their proposal to allow oil and gas rigs off North Carolina’s coasts in Kill Devil Hills this week.

“Drilling is tragic for marine life,” said Liz Kazal, field associate with Environment North Carolina. “That’s true from the very beginning stages of oil exploration, to routine drilling and spilling, to a catastrophe the scale of the BP disaster.”

The exploration for oil and gas may threaten wildlife more than any other drilling activity. As many as 138,000 Atlantic whales and dolphins are projected to be injured or killed by the use of seismic airguns, which create bursts of sound as loud as a jet engine audible for thousands of miles.

While the BP disaster killed tens of thousands of sea turtles, dolphins, and whales, and untold numbers of fish and shellfish, Environment North Carolina researchers also note the routine risks oil and gas rigs pose to marine life. One example: roughly 200,000 migratory birds, lured by light and the prospect of food, are burned, poisoned by oil or otherwise killed each year near drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

In January the Obama administration proposed opening up a huge swath of the southern Atlantic Coast, from Virginia to Georgia, to offshore drilling. Since then, federal officials have been holding informational meetings in coastal cities about their plan, in many cases drawing strong opposition.

For example, on Monday roughly 670 people packed a meeting on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, shattering previous attendance records for Bureau of Ocean & Energy Management proceedings. The attendees were nearly all opposed to drilling, and were recruited by Environment North Carolina, Surfrider, North Carolina Sierra Club, NC Conservation Network, Oceana and others.

“As a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I saw how devastating the BP catastrophe was for sea animals,” said Kazal. “We need the Obama administration to say no to more drilling, and say yes to our treasured sea turtles, dolphins, and whales.”