ALTHOUGH THE FEDERAL government has delayed by at least five years the issuance of oil and gas leases for drilling in the North Atlantic Ocean, the threat of seismic blasting continues to linger.
The Carteret County Chamber of Commerce is recommending that the US Dept. of the Interior move swiftly to ban seismic survey work as well.
The Chamber’s Board of Directors voted unanimously Sept. 5, 2015, to adopt a “Resolution to Oppose Exploration for Oil & Gas and Seismic Blasting Off the Coast of North Carolina.”
“Offshore exploration … and associated seismic blasting … represent a direct threat to the coastal environment of North Carolina, by creating the risk of pollution and by causing harmful effects to marine mammals, turtles, fish, migratory birds and other aquatic life,” the Chamber stated.
“While we are grateful the Obama administration listened to part of the message – the risks of pollution to potentially destroy tourism and the environment – the chamber remains opposed to seismic blasting,” said Chamber Chair Bucky Oliver.
“The scientific data show seismic blasting causes underwater, industrial-level noise impacts that are stressful to right whales. The effects are hazardous to the health and fitness of these whales and impairs their reproduction, as is documented by a drastic and dramatic drop in calving rates since 1998,” he said.
“The right whale is already among the most endangered whales on the planet, with only about 500 individuals remaining. Scientists tell us that seismic blasting may well represent a tipping point for the survival of this endangered whale, leading to eventual extinction.
“We understand that the next whale status review by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is scheduled for 2017.
“The responsible solution is to stop seismic test permitting now and to reassess the situation after NOAA completes the whale review,” Oliver said.
A bill has been introduced in the US Senate to “prohibit any and all seismic activity” off the East Coast of the United States. It is S. 2841, titled the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection (ASAP) Act, to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
The chamber has encouraged North Carolina’s US. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, to “co-sponsor and support this ASAP bill … ASAP,” Oliver said.
Right Whale Is Near and Dear to Carteret County
If seismic blasting is allowed to occur in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina, it could wipe out the remaining population of right whales.
This is the learned opinion of 28 marine scientists who say the loud noise generated by seismic, underwater testing would be gravely harmful to the health of the whales. Dr. Doug Nowacek, an associate professor at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, is one of the 28 researchers who signed a letter to President Barack Obama recently, asking him to put an immediate halt to seismic blasting.
Dr. Nowacek says loud noise cause stress to right whales. Too much stress could be fatal to the survival of the species.
Dr. Nowacek mentioned that the Carteret County Coat of Arms prominently features two right whales. Indeed it does.
Perhaps Carteret County officials will join in a community-wide effort to protect the whales, thereby avoiding the need to have to go back to the College of Arms in London, England, and pay to get a new one made, should the right whale become extinct.
The silver diamonds on the shield are representative of the Coat of Arms of the original Sir George Carteret family. He was one of the eight Lord Proprietors of Carolina, so named by King Charles II in 1668. (Carteret County was named for John Carteret, grandson of Sir George.) The black tridents are representative of Neptune, Roman god of the sea.
The yale is a mythical heraldic beast atop the helmet. On the Carteret County Coat of Arms, this creature has a body of an antelope with curved horns and a lion’s tale.
The black right whales appear quite jovial and are there as “supporters,” appropriate for an oceanside community like Carteret County. (The “supporters” come from the practice of a Knight’s aides dressing in various animal costumes to attract challenges at tournaments. Today, one assumes these roles would be filled by various county government department heads.)
The unveiling of the Carteret County Coat of Arms occurred in 1977, and today it is displayed in the County Courthouse in Beaufort.
It may also be a fiscally prudent act by the county commissioners to join in the movement to save the right whales.
The going rate charged by the College of Arms for a new Coat of Arms, as advertised on its official website, is 12,100 British Pounds Sterling. At press time, the conversion to US currency was $17,627.41.
Mike Wagoner, President
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce