U.S.

Congressman Blasts Trump Official With Air-Horn to Prove Seismic Air Gun Testing Harms Whales: 'Was That Disruptive?'

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) blasted an air-horn at a Trump official during a House committee hearing this week to demonstrate how seismic air gun testing can be “disruptive” for marine animals.

In a video of the incident, Cunningham, who represents Charleston and other coastal cities in South Carolina, can be seen pulling out an air-horn at the House Natural Resource subcommittee hearing on Thursday. The congressman then blasted the device after Chris Oliver, the assistant administrator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, claimed the practice, used to find oil deposits in the ocean, wouldn’t affect whales and other marine life.

“Was that disruptive Mr. Oliver?” Cunningham asked after using the 120-decibel device.

“It was a bit irritating but I didn't find it particularly disruptive,” Oliver replied.

“What about every, say, ten seconds, like seismic airgun blasting, that goes on for days, weeks, months?” the congressman pressed.

“If I were that close to it, yeah, probably,” Oliver admitted.

"What if you depended on sound for hunting your food and for communication? Do you think it would be disruptive?” Cunningham continued.

“At a distance of 20 feet, yes, it would be?” Oliver responded.

“What if I were to tell you its 16,00 times louder than what you just heard here?” the Democrat asked. “Do you see how that would be impactful on marine species and mammals?”

“I do,” Oliver said, “which is why we put mitigation measures in to minimize the proximity of that activity.”

Last year, the NOAA granted five companies permission to conduct such tests, despite many arguing that it could harm endangered whales and other marine life. According to the Washington Post, five companies are currently awaiting final permits to be issued from the Interior Department in order to start testing between Florida and New Jersey.

Despite widespread protests, including from every governor from Massachusetts to Florida, to the Trump administration’s proposal to grant leases along the Atlantic coastline, the White House still believes there is little evidence to prove that seismic testing has ever significantly harmed black whales in areas where the tests have recently occurred.

Although Oliver admits there have been some less than lethal effects from seismic testing on marine life, he argued that black whales are more often physically harmed and killed by boat strikes and getting caught in fishing nets.

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11 Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham (S.C.) blasted an air-horn during a recent hearing to prove that seismic air gun testing can be "disruptive" for marine life. Screenshot

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