Congress is taking up amendments to the 45-year old Marine Mammal Protection Act that could allow for more seismic exploration in the ocean.
The acoustic surveys are the first step toward oil exploration. By blasting loud noise at the seabed and measuring the reflections, surveyors can learn about potential underground deposits of oil and gas.
For marine life in the area, "it's basically like having a dynamite charge go off in your bedroom or your living room about every ten seconds," says Rich Delaney, of the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown. "That's the effect on the whales."
The Marine Mammal Protection act currently makes it difficult for oil and gas explorers to get the permits that allow for seismic exploration. But an amendment put forward by U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City, Louisiana) sides with the petroleum industry in loosening those restrictions.
"The amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection act would basically make it much easier for oil and gas drilling to occur off the Atlantic coast," said Delaney, who opposes the changes. "This is critical habitat for a lot of marine mammals, particularly the North Atlantic right whale."
Delaney is traveling to Washington next week to testify on the issue. His conversation with Steve Junker on All Things Considered is posted in the audio below—give it a listen.