Trump Administration OKs Airgun Blasting That’s Deafening and Killing Critically Endangered Beluga Whales

Four of the remaining 311 Cook Inlet beluga whales have already washed up dead since nighttime airgun blasting was quietly permitted in Alaska two weeks ago

In violation of both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Trump administration has permitted the oil industry to perform nighttime seismic airgun blasting in Cook Inlet, Alaska, home to some of the world’s few remaining beluga whales.

Seismic blasting is used in oil exploration. It can reach 250 decibels and be heard for miles. It deafens and disorients marine mammals (especially beluga whales with their sensitive ears) making it difficult for them to find food, and often killing them.

The permit, quietly issued over two weeks ago, but not published until October 4, violates a federal rule requiring “good visibility” to the “naked eye” to help ensure marine mammals aren’t in the blast zone.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Cook Inletkeeper cook inlet keeper had already filed a lawsuit over any blasting in the area last month, but are astonished that the Trump administration has taken it a step further by allowing it at night.

Already, four of the 311 Cook Inlet beluga whales have washed up dead.

“National Marine Fisheries Services itself has stated that the removal of even one Cook Inlet beluga whale will impede
the recovery of this species,” The Center for Biological Diversity wrote in a petition to the agency to revoke the seismic blasting permit.

In 2015, Cook Inlet belugas became one of National Marine Fisheries Service’s eight “Species in the Spotlight,” which means the species’ extinction “is almost certain in the immediate future because of a rapid population decline or habitat destruction, whose limiting factors and threats are well understood and the needed management actions are known and have a high probability of success, and is a species that is in conflict with construction or other developmental projects or other forms of economic activity.”

Still, the agency issued the permit.

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