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Groups question ocean drilling
David Kyler does not want to start seeing marine mammals bleeding from their ears washing ashore in the Golden Isles.

He also does not want to stand on those same shores and see oil rigs drilling on the horizon.

That is why the Center for a Sustainable Coast, the environmental advocacy group for which Kyler is executive director, is teaming with Oceana and the Sierra Club to oppose the use of seismic airguns to explore the ocean floor for potential oil drilling sites in the Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. Department of the Interior is considering allowing the use of the airguns along a seven-state coastline from Delaware to Florida.

The airguns, which send 250 decibel sound waves into the ocean's floor to search for oil pockets, are only a step toward offshore drilling, Kyler said. He said the country should be putting its efforts into developing alternative forms of energy like wind and solar power.

"The more we prolong the reckless era of fossil fuels, the longer we delay the obvious benefits of clean energy," Kyler said.

The airguns also put marine animals, like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, at great risk, Kyler said.

"Airguns...are known to cause traumatic and often fatal damage to the life-support systems of marine mammals," Kyler said.

After a round of seismic airgun testing in Peru earlier this year, hundreds of dead dolphins washed ashore along an 85-mile stretch of beach, bleeding from the ears.

"Moreover, Georgia's recreational and commercial fishing industries, generating about a half billion dollars a year in income here, would be put in harm's way," Kyler said.

Oceana spokeswoman Katie Parrish said her organization is opposing the potential use of the airguns for the same reasons. She cited a study by the Interior department that estimated more than 138,000 marine mammals could be injured.

There also could be more than 13 million disruptions to the vital behaviors of marine mammals such as feeding, calving and breeding.

"There is no gain to using the airguns in the Atlantic," Parrish said.

Of special concern to the Georgia coast is the future of the right whales, which use the winter waters here to raise their young.

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