On April 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, known as the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, an order that commands the Interior Department to review the current five-year oil exploration plan on the Outer Continental Shelf. The order permits the process for the development of new oil reserves. It targets the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off of Hawaii, the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument off of the American Samoa, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off of California, and the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary off of Michigan.
The purpose of the order is to essentially reduce marine sanctuaries and monuments so they can be opened to oil and gas exploration, threatening the environment and the animals that live there. The executive order jeopardizes the future of marine parks, allowing the potential of oil spills to occur, all of which will cause irrevocable damage.
Many remember the recent Gulf Coast Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 and how it impacted the marine ecosystem and its species. It was an environmental disaster that not only was the largest oil spill in U.S. history, but that also affected thousands of marine animals. Nearly 1,400 whales and dolphins had been found stranded by the end of 2015 because of oil exposure. Birds, mammals, and sea turtles were also deeply injured. A catastrophe as great as this one has the chance to happen once again if this review allows.
Oil spills exact a serious toll on coastal economies, including our approximately $35 billion commercial fishing and $60 billion ocean and coastal tourism and recreation industries – according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Another concern among environmentalists is the direct effect oil companies and their practices will have on wildlife. Seismic surveys use loud blasts to search for oil beneath the ocean floor. That echoing sound, which can travel more than 2,000 miles, is set at a low frequency, one that we, as humans, cannot hear. However, whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and other marine life can. This directly disrupts and displaces important migratory patterns and causes marine animals to “beach” themselves.
A representative of the Department of Commerce commented on the issue:
“President Trump’s executive order puts the needs of American families and businesses first by implementing a plan which will ensure economic vitality and energy security for years to come…As a result, 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (submerged federal land surrounding the U.S.) is off limits to responsible energy development. This order sets up a review of the regulations and restrictions which reduce exploration and development.”
However, the Democratic opposition continues to speak out against the immorality of the executive order and how it could not only threaten marine life, but also take away from the symbolic meaning of our treasured, national marine sanctuaries and monuments. Arizona Representative Raúl M. Grijalva explains:
“Attempting to wipe national monuments off the map with the stroke of a pen would be illegal and unpopular, and this review will show as much. If done in good faith, this review will lead President Trump and Secretary Zinke to see these wonderful places as the American people see them: as sources of national pride and engines for local economic development.”
What You Can Do To Help
You can voice your opinions until July 26th and help put an end to this exploration. If you feel strongly about the subject, it’s very important that you state your concerns and your personal experiences. In the fight to protect the world’s animals and landscapes, every voice counts.