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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 8, 2014

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Bob Considine (609) 984-1795

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION TO APPEAL FEDERAL RULING ALLOWING
FEDERAL SEISMIC OCEAN TESTING TO PROCEED

DEP ARGUES  WORK OFF THE COAST OF BARNEGAT INLET COULD HARM MARINE
LIFE AND THE STATE’S TOURISM AND FISHING INDUSTRIES

(14/P71) TRENTON – The Christie Administration will appeal today’s U.S. District Court ruling that allows seismic testing by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to move forward despite concerns raised by the State that the survey could adversely impact New Jersey’s vital tourism and fishing industries, and harm fish and marine mammals, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin said today.

“This ruling is very disappointing to the Administration, and could have a negative impact on the ocean and its wildlife,” Commissioner Martin said. “The DEP believes this research, which would use loud, powerful sound blasts to map the ocean floor, will likely have a detrimental effect on New Jersey’s fisheries and marine mammals. We must take no chances when it comes to protecting our ocean resources, our commercial and recreational fishing, and our state’s $40 billion tourism economy.  A healthy ocean is vital to our residents, our visitors, and our businesses.”

The state is working on filing an appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, following a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Peter G. Sheridan, presiding in Trenton, who earlier today said the project can move forward. The judge did allow a one-day stay of his ruling to allow the state to have time to file an appeal.  

The seismic study is funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Rutgers University. DEP contends that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration failed to act properly when NOAA denied the DEP’s request to study fisheries impacts.  The DEP’s Bureau of Marine Fisheries and Office of Environmental Review have both concluded this seismic activity would likely negatively impact New Jersey’s fish and marine mammal populations, including threatened and endangered species.

DEP contends that this proposed seismic research can either directly harm fish or disrupt migration patterns that will have a detrimental impact on our commercial and recreational fishing industry.  The study’s one-month time window coincides with the height of fish migrations through the study area. This time window also accounts for nearly 20 percent of the annual catch for many species of fish.

In addition to fisheries impacts, the DEP further contends that the study will have an impact on marine mammals that migrate through the area and into New Jersey’s coastal waters.

Rutgers University received funding from the National Science Foundation to conduct seismic ocean blasting tests between 15 and 50 miles east of Barnegat Inlet as part of a climate change study. The process involves the repeated blasts of compressed air by underwater seismic air guns that are designed to determine the scientific understanding of changes in sea level rise by examining deep sea sediments.

These air-gun blasts can generate up to 250 decibels underwater. NOAA is in the process of updating its Marine Mammal Acoustic Guidance, which set standards on how man-made sounds like seismic testing, sonar tests and ship noise, can affect marine mammals. Currently, the threshold level at which underwater noise is considered to pose dangers to marine wildlife is 160 decibels, which is louder than a jet engine.

The view the state’s legal papers on the request to seek injunctive relief in federal court, please visit:  http://www.nj.gov/dep/docs/seismic-testing-federal-complaint.pdf

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