Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Groups oppose ocean blasting plan off NJ coast

Environmental and fishing groups are opposing a plan by three universities and the National Science Foundation to carry out seismic blast tests on the ocean floor off the New Jersey coast this summer.

The groups say the tests could harm or kill marine life including dolphins, whales and many types of fish.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed granting permission for the tests, which would run from early June to mid-July about 15 miles off Barnegat Bay. The tests are designed to study the arrangement of sediments deposited on the ocean floor during times of changing global sea levels dating back 60 million years.

Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said the group has opposed seismic testing for nearly 30 years because it can seriously harm marine life.

"We were shocked to see this authorization and find it seriously flawed," she said. "While we support scientific research, there are many questions about the need for this study, especially in light of the grave risk to marine life in such a large area."

Clean Ocean Action and other groups want an extended comment period and a public hearing on the plan.

A spokeswoman for Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. According to documents filed with the fisheries service, the study aims to investigate features such as river valleys cut into coastal plain sediments now buried under nearly 3,300 feet of younger sediment and flooded by today's ocean.

The University of Texas and Rutgers University also would participate in the study.

The proposal calls for testing to occur from June 3 through July 9, although it could be extended.

Capt. Jim Lovgren, director of the Fisherman's Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach, questioned the value of the testing.

"Squid and summer flounder are very important fisheries, and this is a key habitat area for them," he said. "It has been documented that marine life is impacted by seismic testing. What is the point of this study compared to the risks involved?"

The groups say seismic air guns and three other acoustic blast technologies that would be used in the study all have known potential to harm marine life.

Wayne Parry Associated Press
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