Florida may join a lawsuit to block underwater seismic blasting in the Atlantic


An endangered Southern right whale - PHOTO VIA ADOBE IMAGES
  • Photo via Adobe Images
  • An endangered Southern right whale
Florida was at first a noticeable holdout among the 10 states that filed a lawsuit in opposition to the push from the Trump administration and oil companies to revive seismic blasting along the Atlantic sea floor.

But Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody may be having second thoughts, according to a report from the Florida Phoenix. Through a spokesperson, Moody told the media outlet she is now taking a look at the lawsuit "and seeing how it relates to Florida" and that her office is "meeting with relevant state agencies to assess the effects on our state." 

In December, five companies had already been issued incidental harassment authorizations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, allowing them to use high-powered air guns to search the Atlantic sea floor for oil in federal waters between Florida's Space Coast and New Jersey. Valid for one year, the permits ban testing in waters up to 56 miles offshore between November and April during calving season for some whale species. The testing consists of using visual and acoustic observes on ships, seismic surveyors are required to stop work if they spot a whale within a mile.

It's the first time the U.S. has explored oil mining off the Atlantic coast since the waters were opened up between 1976 and 1983.

The previous operation came up largely empty handed.

Environmentalists are concerned for the well-being of marine life that uses sonar, in particular the North American right whale, which gives birth off Cape Canaveral. According to the NOAA, roughly 400 to 250 right whales remain in the wild. Of those, there are just 100 breeding females. In 2017, scientists tracking the species discovered no right whale calves were born.

However, since then the number of calves have jumped from zero to seven, according to a report from The Scientist.

The environmental groups and a band of state Attorneys General filed an injunction on Feb. 20 in federal court in South Carolina. They argue that the Trump administration's decision to move forward violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.