A Seismic Victory for Marine Life

California Coastal Commission PG&E Point Buchon porpoise whales

Good news from last week’s California Coastal Commission hearing, as the commissioners unanimously denied Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s proposal for seismic testing in the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve.

About 200 people filled the hearing room — environmentalists, fishermen, tribes, local residents, and others – all speaking out with concerns about the proposed testing. Everyone in the room agreed that when it comes to nuclear energy, safety is a huge priority. But the questions and discussion centered on whether the tests would provide new information, as much that is already known about the fault activity offshore – PG&E had already completed onshore seismic surveys and offshore tests that were less threatening to marine life.

After hours of public comment, the commissioners were not convinced that there would be enough benefit to doing the research in comparison to the environmental harm posed to porpoise, whales, sea otters and other marine life in the area associated with the high-intensity sound waves (nearly continuous shooting of 250 decibel air guns for weeks).

Of particular concern was the threat PG&E’s proposed action would have on the adjacent Point Buchon State Marine Reserve and State Marine Conservation Area. Ultimately this was a test case for proposed projects within the relatively new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that may be environmentally harmful. The marine reserve prohibits activities that injure or kill marine life, and this testing could have seriously undermined these protections.

"After working for years to designate MPAs in California, as stewards, we now need to actively protect them,” said Heal the Bay’s Coastal Resources Director Sarah Sikich. “I’m glad the Commission sent a strong signal that the lives of marine animals along California’s coast and within these MPAs are valued.”

The Coastal Commission's decision makes it unlikely the testing will happen any time soon.

 Read more about the decision.

 Sustain Heal the Bay’s work as we strive to protect the wildlife within MPAs.