Rep. Joe Cunningham blasted an air horn in a subcommittee hearing March 9 to demonstrate the effects of seismic testing on ocean life. COURTESY OFFICE OF JOE CUNNINGHAM

There are so many aspects to environmental protection that it is difficult to know where to begin a discussion. However, in the Lowcountry, the aspect of our environment that is a concern to most of us, and is an area of expertise for U.S. Congressman Joe Cunningham, is water.

Our water comes in two types, saltwater or seawater, and freshwater.

In a recent interview with Rep. Cunningham, our District 1 representative, I started with saltwater. Cunningham made a splash with that air horn when he challenged Chris Oliver, an assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in his testimony on seismic testing.

Oliver claimed that he was not aware that such testing would have a major impact on marine life. I asked Cunningham to elaborate on why he used the air horn in the meeting.

He explained that sound is magnified in water. It travels faster and has a greater impact. He said he was trying to show that while the air horn would be annoying and mildly disruptive to humans, it would be devastating to sea mammals, like our dolphins.

Cunningham explained that marine mammals often rely on sound for a variety of functions such as communication but also echolocation. “That air horn blast to us would be 16,000 times louder to a dolphin,” he said. “Imagine a sound 16,000 times louder than an air horn on a regular basis.”

I asked the Congressman what our readers can do to better ensure that our waters are protected now and into the future against seismic testing and the sale of offshore drilling rights. Cunningham indicated that there are or should be stronger consumer protection laws. It’s important to write all legislatures, including Sen. Lindsay Graham and Sen. Tim Scott, asking them to support such regulations.

Cunningham emphasized that it is a balance between development and conservation. We need development but we all have a responsibility to minimize the impact we have on our environment. This applies to the individual homeowner, to the community, town, county on up to the Federal Government.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.