Seismic Airgun Blasting in the Atlantic Ocean

Seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could harm marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales, which depend on sound to feed, mate, and communicate. The procedure would also pave the way for offshore oil and gas drilling

Case Overview

Together with dozens of organizations and thousands of coastal communities and businesses, Earthjustice has been fighting for years to stop fossil fuel companies from blasting seismic air guns in the Atlantic Ocean, including in crucial underwater habitat for one of the world’s most endangered large whale species.

These air guns produce a noise louder than a rocket launch — and 16,000 times louder than a standard air horn — at 10-second intervals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for months on end. This extremely loud and dangerous process, which is used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, is the first step toward offshore drilling.

If allowed, seismic airgun blasting would harm marine life, including whales, dolphins, fish, and zooplankton — the foundation of the ocean food web.

In 2018, Earthjustice and our allies challenged the legality of permits issued by the Trump administration within days after they were issued. Over the nearly two years of litigation, industry was never able to secure final approval to proceed with the surveys. These permits would have allowed the fossil fuel companies to proceed with seismic surveys even if they harmed marine mammals — and thereby avoid any legal responsibility for harming critically endangered ocean wildlife.

We continue the fight to secure permanent protection from oil and gas drilling for the Atlantic Ocean.

A North Atlantic right whale swims with dolphins.
A North Atlantic right whale swims with dolphins. (Allison Henry / NOAA)

Case Updates

March 16, 2023 Article

There’s a Biodiversity Crisis, and Oil and Gas Are Making It Worse

The web of life is in danger of collapsing, due in large part to climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry. We're working to protect species from these threats.

A north Atlantic right whale swims with dolphins.
October 16, 2020 Update: Victory

Endangered Whale Protected From Life-Threatening Seismic Blasts

Two years of litigation against permits granted to fossil fuel companies results in a critical reprieve for one of Earth's rarest ocean creatures.

The endangered right whale is among the marine creatures threatened by seismic testing.
October 1, 2020 Press Release: Victory

Seismic Blasting Efforts Halted in Atlantic Ocean

Permits will expire next month; industry won’t launch boats this year