My love for the sea commenced at an early age. Growing up, I experienced surfing with wild dolphins, playing with baby sea lions at our local La Jolla Cove in San Diego, CA, and freediving with the world's largest animal... the blue whale. It has been my mission to, now, share my passion with the world and inspire others to care for its beauty and resources it provides us. However, one bill is threatening to change my world.
My life, along with many California coastal communities that rely on the sea, could change in a matter of one crucial accident: an oil spill. The potential of an oil spill comes from a proposal to drill offshore via a bill, H.R.4239. This bill would provide shortsighted giveaways to the oil and gas industry at the expense of key protections for marine life. This bill, in which the oil industry has backed and is lobbying heavily for, would force our government to prioritize oil and gas companies ahead of the people and economies that sustain our coastal regions, as well as Department of Defense operations that are vital to national security. With the bill aimed at expanding drilling all along our US coastal waters, we can expect to see many conflicts with our very own military's defense priorities.
If passed, the bill could bring offshore drilling to places right off our coast, ignoring safety measures and environmental protections.
There's a lot at stake in California. With upwelling and a diversified ocean bottom, these aspects support a vast array of biodiversity and a very productive food web that gives us hope for the future of fisheries and ocean recovery. Unfortunately for wildlife and the environment, locating oil beneath the ocean floor requires an environmentally damaging process called seismic testing. The loud booms of seismic testing threatens to separate calves from their mothers, disrupt mating and ffeeding, and injure or kill whales, dolphins, and others who rely on sound for survival. Offshore drilling would create a sonic sea for our beautiful migrating gray whales, humpbacks, and blue whales traversing our coast. This wildlife contributes to the mass tourism California receives. Tourism and recreation that depend on ocean activities account for 47 percent of California's Ocean Economy (Source: National Ocean Economics Program, NOAA).
One of the most popular tourist attractions in San Diego is whale watching during the gray whale migration. These whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA). This very MMPA protects all mammals in the US. This means it is illegal to harm or harass in any way a marine mammal in US waters. Another marine mammal that is endanger and protected by the MMPA is the Southern/California Sea Otter. These animals were hunted to near extinction with fifty individuals left. Today, there are around 3,000 individuals. However, an oil spill anywhere off our California coast could decimate their entire population in an instant. In the case of an oil spill, offshore drilling would endanger whales, dolphins, sea otters up the coast, and other marine mammals around the US, violating the MMPA.
In addition, restaurants revolving around seafood could be put out of business, in the event of an oil spill. Entire communities along the US coasts that rely on fishing to feed their families will have a hard time surviving in the event of a spill. The gulf coast seafood restaurants and community are still recovering after BP's oil spill. Putting any of this at risk for offshore drilling and exploration is irresponsible and, in the long run, economically expensive.
I want to end off by asking you to take initiative and call Secretary Ryan Zinke, part of the Trump Administration, to not support the H.R.4239 bill and its planned initiative to pollute our waters. Take further action and post a public statement on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's "Draft Proposed Program." Click here or type "BOEM-2017-0074" at regulations.gov to find the document. Please act now! Time is limited. It's up to us to speak up for those that can't be heard and could be negatively affected or killed, due to an oil spill.
The issue of offshore drilling is not a matter of if there's an oil spill... it's when it will happen.