First Coast fisherman react to oil exploration

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- President Obama approved using sonic cannons for oil and gas exploration off the East Coast with air cannons in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the White House, the testing could begin in just four years.

Chuck Darner is the tournament chairman for Jacksonville's largest fishing tournament, the Kingfish Tournament.

"We moved here from Ohio just for the fishing and so we've been involved in serious off-shore fishing ever since then," said Darner.

Darner says if drilling comes to the First Coast, he won't be concerned for the future of the tournament.

"It's not going to affect our tournament because the fish we fish for are found near shore," said Darner. "It most affects marine animals such as right whales, dolphins, porpoises."

Shrimpers in the area say it won't affect them because of their closeness to the shore. There are already guidelines in place to protect endangered species from vessel traffic and loud noise, however, an environmental impact study shows over 138,000 animals could be harmed.

Joe Kistel is the founder of marine conservation organization, TISIRI. He does not have a strong opposition to the oil exploration, however, he says the affects could trickle down to humans.

"The prey species that the dolphins are eating, may be eating a food source that are commercially viable and it could reduce the number of fish that we depend on, so we just don't know," said Kistel.

Oil lobbyists say drilling for the estimated 4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil could generate $195 billion in total investments.

Darner is still on the fence.

"I think I stand with most Americans that we should make use of our natural resources instead of shipping money overseas, but we need to do it in a way that is safe for the animals that we come to know and love in this country," said Darner.

Right now, the government has not declared which sites on the East Coast could be designated 'drilling sites.'


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