America-First Offshore Energy Executive Order Leaves Our Oceans and Wildlife Behind

Everything you need to know about the new “oil above all” executive order that removes protections for oceans and wildlife, potentially opening the door for the oil industry to pillage and plunder our waters.

Last Friday, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) titled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” This EO leveled a barrage of attacks on ocean protections and promotes harmful offshore drilling at the expense of wildlife and ocean health. Specifically, the order includes:

  • Expands by millions of acres the waters considered for oil drilling through a re-write of the country’s five-year development plan. The five-year leasing plan guides where lease sales for oil and gas development can and cannot occur in federal waters offshore. The current plan (covering 2017-2022) was developed through a public process that took years to complete.  It deliberately excluded lease sales in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans, focusing development in the Gulf of Mexico where known resources and the best spill response capabilities exist. The new EO is specifically focused on putting those “off-limits” areas back up for consideration.
  • Revokes protections for ecologically sensitive areas and sets in motion further attacks on marine sanctuaries and monuments. In 2016, certain ecologically sensitive areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans were recognized for their incredible biological significance and protected from drilling by permanent executive withdrawal. This new EO wipes those protections off the map. It then goes on to instruct the Secretary of Commerce to reconsider all marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries designated or expanded within the last decade by the Bush and Obama administrations. It also prohibits the Secretary from creating any new marine sanctuaries without a full assessment of their resource extraction potential. This puts at risk wildlife havens like Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic. These and other important marine monuments are part of our National Wildlife Refuge System, the only network of public lands and waters dedicated to wildlife conservation. These protected waters shelter pristine coral reefs, deep sea habitats and remote islands that support more than 7,000 marine species, including tropical fish, sea birds and endangered whales, seals and sea turtles.
  • Fast tracks harmful seismic testing and rolls back seismic safeguards for marine wildlife. Seismic exploration used by oil companies to locate oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor involves sound wave explosions that can have devastating impacts on dolphins, porpoises, whales and other magnificent creatures of the sea. For example, beluga whales in the Arctic and the endangered North Atlantic right whale in the Atlantic, that rely on high-pitched vocalizations to communicate and hunt, are especially at risk. Seismic testing has been shown to damage hearing, change migration and feeding patterns, and leave lasting effects on social behaviors that reduce reproduction, feeding and other vital behaviors. This EO not only invites seismic testing, it directs that permitting be fast tracked. It also forces the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to reconsider its policy guidance which helps protect marine mammals from the dangerous effects of seismic airguns and explosive detonations.
  • Rolls back critical drilling safeguards established in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster. The oil industry’s track record has clearly shown that where we permit drilling, we must have sound regulations. If history is any indication, offshore drilling has been nothing short of a disaster for wildlife and the idea that the oil industry can be trusted to regulate itself it patently dangerous. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound killed more than 2,500 sea otters, not to mention the more than 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, and over 250,000 seabirds that died within a few days of the spill. The BP Deepwater Horizon Spill in 2010, resulted in the deaths of 11 people! It also led to the death of up to 175,000 sea turtles and injured nearly 35,000 hatchling sea turtles. As many as 84,500 birds of at least 93 species were killed by the spill including brown pelicans, laughing gulls, terns, skimmers and northern gannets which suffered the highest death rates. Marine mammals also experienced elevated death rates, reduced reproduction and disease—of these, the Barataria Bay bottlenose dolphins, the endangered sperm whale and the Bryde’s whale were impacted the most. Some fell victim to contamination from the spill itself, while others succumbed to the toxic dispersants that were spread in the Gulf of Mexico in response to the spill.

After these disasters, we said “never again,” but instead of learning from our past mistakes and building greater safeguards, this EO threatens to roll back protections for our oceans and marine wildlife. Among other things, it challenges the safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including regulations addressing blow out preventers – the failure of which was the direct cause of the entire gulf disaster. It also calls into question rules to address the unique challenges of drilling in the harsh and spill-prone conditions in the Arctic.

What does this all mean for our oceans and the wildlife and communities that depend on them?

Every year hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and gas are spilled or leaked into our oceans – and that’s not including major catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon disaster or spillage from damaged rigs or pipelines caused by hurricanes.  This kind of oil contamination is a huge problem for wildlife.

Wildlife not immediately killed by oiling can suffer slow deaths from debilitating illness and injury. Animals can ingest the poison through cleaning themselves or through eating other animals, like contaminated fish, which have similarly been exposed and have had the toxins bioaccumulate in their tissues.  For marine mammals like whales, exposure to petroleum causes tissue damage in the eyes, mouth, skin and lungs. Sea turtle hatchlings are also particularly susceptible to oiling because they spend much of their time near the water surface, where spilled oil or tar accumulates.

And it’s not just oil spills

Other impacts from the industrialization of our oceans through oil development are significant for wildlife too. In addition to the devastating impacts of seismic testing outlined above, increased vessel traffic, air pollution and the dumping of toxic debris associated with more oil drilling all take a toll. For example, imperiled whales often collide with increased marine traffic due to the presence of oil rigs and the boats serving them. And, hundreds of migrating birds each year die from rig collisions.

Impacts from Sea to Shining Sea

The Arctic

Drilling in the remote, icy and storm-prone Arctic is extremely dangerous. What’s more, increased Arctic drilling will come with a rapid increase in marine vessel traffic in often ice-choked waters which will significantly increase the likelihood of spills.  Spills in these remote locations would have deadly consequences for Arctic marine wildlife like humpback whales, polar bears, beluga whales, Pacific walruses, ice-dependent seals and other marine species. Many of these species are also at risk from the deafening impacts of seismic explosions.

The Arctic is also home to many rural coastal communities that rely on these marine systems for sustenance. They are on the front lines in the event of a spill especially when extreme weather can challenge responders’ arrival to the spill site for days. To get an idea of what this might look like, Defenders created Oil Spill Response Scenarios as part of our Bering Strait Response Teaching Tool, to help communities visualize a spill and incorporate their unique knowledge of wildlife and habitat to be part of the response, which will be more critical if drilling increases in the Arctic Ocean as intended under this new EO.

The Atlantic Coast

The Atlantic coast represents one of the most biologically diverse and economically important regions in the East. Protecting our coastlines and offshore waters is critically important for the sustainability our economy, local communities and the protection and recovery of imperiled marine species.

The endangered North Atlantic right whale migrates along the entire East Coast of the United States and would be the species most negatively impacted by exploration and seismic testing which could disrupt their migration paths.

The charismatic piping plover, a threatened species that makes the Atlantic coast its breeding and winter habitat, was already dealt a massive blow following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and another one could spell utter disaster for this shorebird.


The Pacific Ocean

Of all the world’s oceans, the Pacific is the most biologically diverse. It has double the area and more than double the water volume of the Atlantic Ocean. Iconic orcas, charismatic California sea otters and myriad wildlife call the Pacific Ocean and coast home. Protecting Pacific coastlines and waters is crucial to support marine life and coastal wildlife, keep communities safe and boost our national economy.

Oil spills, from offshore drilling or shipping, are one of the greatest threats to the California sea otter.

Because their numbers remain unstable and they live in a rather small geographic area compared to other sea otter populations, they are especially vulnerable to the effects of oil spills.  When oil gets on sea otters’ fur it gets matted, which prevents their fur from insulating their bodies. Without this natural protection from the frigid water, sea otters can quickly die from hypothermia. The toxicity of oil can also be harmful to sea otters, affecting their vital organs like their livers, kidneys, lungs and eyes. It is tragic to think of, but the sobering reality is that this is just one example of the price wildlife could pay if offshore drilling was expanded along the Pacific coast.

Defenders Will Fight for Our Marine and Coastal Environments!

We’re going to do everything we can to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

Expanding drilling and rolling back environmental safeguards in our Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific waters would put our marine wildlife, their habitat, and our climate at grave risk. Not only does it threaten recent efforts to curb carbon pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels, but it opens the door to more toxic oil spills that can wreak havoc on our oceans and the abundant wildlife that live in them.

We will continue to hold this administration accountable for these attacks on our oceans, communities and wildlife. And will challenge in court the patently illegal attempt to unilaterally revoke permanent protections for treasured ocean havens. We will also work at the state level to help pass state legislation that opposes federal drilling and safeguards our coastlines.

Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the status of other developments important to wildlife conservation and our work. Don’t forget to sign up for our emails where you will get all the latest news and action alerts to support wildlife.

70 Responses to “America-First Offshore Energy Executive Order Leaves Our Oceans and Wildlife Behind”

  1. philip bauer

    We better look for a new planet now. Hawkins gave one hundred years.

  2. Sharon Moore

    The President and the Republican Congress are this biggest threat to America’s heritage we’ve ever faced. We must strive to curb their damage.

  3. Krista Markovic

    Shame on US!! The negative impacts of the decisions that this country makes will resound forever. Trump has no idea what he has done!

  4. John Craney

    I want killers of wildlife to spent some big time in jails or get the death penalty.
    My monthly contributions should go for that. If the poachers are dead or in jail they will never do it again. We need to concentrate on changing animal cruelty laws.

    • Mary Morris

      I’m with you. This is an obscenity that cannot happen. The titans of big oil aren’t going quietly but they should watch it.

  5. Jeanne Stulb

    Our waters cannot take another Exxon Valdez oil spill or a Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

  6. Sharon Haywood

    No to drilling offshore. Our oceans are too important to have more degradation and poisoning by oil leaks snd spills!

  7. Monika Winchester

    It’s time Trump leaves our national monuments, parks, and other areas alone. Oil drilling will just destroy them. the AMERICAN PEOPLE LIKE these places. They are highly visited. Perhaps he should drill under Trump Towers or Mar-del-Lago. He is NOT representing the wishes of Americans, just oil companies. The nature and wildlife that he will allow to be destroyed can never be reclaimed, restored, or brought back in the case of animals.

  8. Linda stradley

    Please stop doing things that will harm us and the wildlife. We are loosing our pollinators from poison. That will destroy 1/3 of the food supply. The animals have their jobs. For every one killed it has a bad affect on people. Ecosystems get destroyed, we the people get hurt as well as the beautiful animals that we Love that can’t save themselves. Please stop careless decisions. We will all be affected negatively

  9. Ken Purington II

    Dear Defenders
    As the Enviorment will not be getting
    any protection from the Trump
    Administration perhaps help
    lies in the Federal.Courts.
    I fear that this administration must
    be sued to stop these anti enviornmental
    Actions Thanks…Ken

  10. Mary Spano

    There is no such thing as ‘responsible’ or ‘sustainable’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ when it comes to fossil fuel and mining companies, especially when Exon and the EPA has had proof how they are damaging to the collective planet. They just keep getting rich at the expense of fellow global citizens.
    I am so angry!!! How the hell do we stop this insanity?

  11. Nikki Meldrum

    Stop off shore drilling. Did we learn nothing from the Exxon Valdez and the BP Deepwater Horizon disasters. They are killing our future for their big companies profits. They don’t care what it does to the planet as long as they get richer in their life time.

  12. Arleen Zuniga

    very saddening that we as a species are moving backwards towards annihilation of this beautiful planet. I will continue to try and stay positive and fight the good fight

  13. wen

    Pres. Trump is showing himself to be no more than an empty headed puppet to anything Big Money. It’s like putting a bunch of kids in charge of a candy shop – oops!

  14. Terry Edlefsen

    Scientific Facts, not political propaganda

  15. Andrea Eisenberg

    Let us do whatever we can to (as Trump would say) “stop the carnage.” All living things are in damage control mode and we must stay in that mode until we overcome the constant barrage of threats to our health and welfare. Please stay strong, Defenders of Wildlife. You are a critical voice.

  16. C. James

    This “executive order” is a huge threat not only to marine wildlife, but also to our planet and the people who inhabit it. This “order” should be cancelled immediately!

  17. Kate Rossetto

    If we do not make sure our environment is healthy, there will be nothing left for us here on earth. A healthy environment ensures vitality for everything living on our planet…plants, animals and we humans. It is our responsibility to protect what we hold dear for for ourselves and future generations.

  18. Carole Cassidy

    Under Obama, ten steps forward, under Trump hundreds of steps backward. Tragic.

  19. Kristine Lightfoot




    Once an oil spill occurs wildlife in the area is doomed. We should be protecting our environment by substituting non-polluting green energy for dangerous fossil fuel extraction that destroys our environment when its extracted and creates climate change problems when it’s burned.

  21. eileen juric

    Please protect our wildlife and oceans. Thank you!

  22. Lascinda Goetschius

    We must protect the earth . We have no other planet to live on

    We are the stewards of the earth and of the animals and must protect it

  23. Mary Lucas

    It is so upsetting to hear about the possible exploitation and likely destruction of our
    wildlife due to offshore drilling.

  24. April Schmitt

    We should stop extracting from the earth and concentrate on renewable and clean energy sources!

  25. Rita Iris Pérez Soto

    “Expanding drilling and rolling back environmental safeguards in our Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific waters would put our marine wildlife, their habitat, and our climate at grave risk. Not only does it threaten recent efforts to curb carbon pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels, but it opens the door to more toxic oil spills that can wreak havoc on our oceans and the abundant wildlife that live in them.”

  26. Linda

    Haven’t we had enough wildlife lost to oil spills? Haven’t we ruined enough of our planet? The time is long overdue to find other more sustainable ways to provide our energy and to PUT THEM INTO USE.

  27. Beth Carr

    The Executive Order (EO) titled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” is simply an EO leveling a barrage of attacks on ocean protections and promotes harmful offshore drilling at the expense of wildlife and ocean health.The havoc his would wreak is unconscionable and must be stopped. This planet is at a tipping point and our charge should be to promote and protect the sustainability of the planet for ALL living things, not the promotion of the pursuit of greedy corporate profit.

  28. Judith Berry

    Once again, our Goverment is trying to tell us that industry is more important than God’s Creation. Greed outweighs life. Human’s were given responsibility for the care of all that God created. God is not smiling and neither am I.

  29. Sheila Maseda-Gille

    This makes me so sad I feel like crying, but I know that won’t help.We have to find a way to stop this administration from drilling off our coasts and mining,logging and developing oil and gas on our public lands. We must protect our National monuments. How can this administration legally overturn these designations?

  30. Jennifer

    It seems like our leaders are only interested in MORE MONEY – FOR THEMSELVES.

  31. Marilyn F. Patterson

    No potentially unsafe drilling! We need more care..note BP disaster!

  32. Roy Erickson

    This is an environmental travesty that will decimate wildlife populations.

  33. Kathleen Klamert


    Thank you for your consideration.

  34. Sybil Erden

    outrageously insensitive….a new low in life-killing the oceans and this planet

  35. Matt Cormons

    fWe cannot let the present administration endanger all that many of us hold sacred – the wildlife and environments that make Earth the wonderful place it is. As selfish interests chip away as has been happening for decades we will find the entire planet, including humans in dire straits.

  36. Lori Shimabukuro

    Our earth is not up for grabs to Trump and friends! We must be heard and fight these greedy money mongers and defend our earth against them!

  37. Connie Nunemaker

    It appears to be more and more obvious that our elected leaders don’t care at all about the natural heritage created by generations of environmentally-concerned citizens and officials, or the people they govern, who appreciate the beauty, diversity, and importance of our natural world and the complex web of life around us. All our elected officials seem to be concerned with is how much money businesses they may be involved with can make, generally at the expense of the natural world, clean water and air, and the health of people and wildlife. This is unacceptable.

  38. Dennis DOWNES

    This will damage the balance of the eco system, is there no end to the American government’s barbarity towards all aspects of the world.

  39. Diana Aylward

    I am totally gutted by this heinous crime, committed by “President” Trump. He should be sacked, along with those unconscious, uncaring and useless ones that he has chosen to run our precious country—people (including Trump) who have no understanding about WHAT IT IS TO REALLY RUN A COUNTRY—-let alone a country such as ours. What a travesty these people are creating. I pray, along with multitudes of humans WHO CARE ABOUT OUR COUNTRY’S BEAUTY AND MAJESTY, OUR PRECIOUS ANIMALS AND ALL THAT OUR REAL COUNTRY STANDS FOR. None of these people who only want to destroy our country’s legacy—-including the animals—have any REAL LOVE AND CARE FOR OUR COUNTRY. I pray for the day when they all must step down—and I hope to God that it is soon.

  40. mary

    You are suppose to be a leader but yet you act like a knucklehead!!!!!!! We all need to protect our environment and other living wildlife and lands and yet you want to destroy what we have fought to keep safe from people who are out for personal gain and personal wealth. What about the wealth we have now in us having the national parks, monuments, historical sites, museums, etc. why do you want to destroy that ???????? have you ever been to a national park?????? seen the beautiful wildlife; been to watch the beauty of the wild life and the wild horses???? why do you want to kill this ?? is it for your own personal financial gain??? what about leaving them as they are; protecting and sharing the wealth of these lands, history, wildlife, clean water, to our children, grandchildren and future generations of this country the people of this country the Great good all American U.S.A.!!! For once in your life Trump do not be the knucklehead and do the right thing for the people and the country of U.S.A.!!!!!! Do not be two faced for once in life and do right by the people of this country!!!!

  41. mary

    no offshore drilling!!!! we have all seen what has happened with this before!!! Have you not yet learned your lesson?????? this is the only planet we have and we have to protect it and use it wisely!!!!!! Why not work with nature instead of against it!!!!! No offshore drilling!! no more drilling period is what I say!!!!!!! you are destroying the beautiful environment we have now or rather what is left of it that has not been abused or destroyed!!!

  42. jorge tamargo


  43. Betty Ghee

    There’s always oil spills. It effects ALL wildlife. Dolphins, seals, whales. pelicans, sea turtles, eagles, to mention a few, and vessel traffic. air pollution, Marine life, sea otters will be in danger because their fur will get matted by the oil and prevent their bodies from unsulating and they will end up dying. Oil spills are dramatic, to all water animals, and to people.

  44. Tanya Piker

    Greed and ego will destroy what we have fought to preserve and protect. The new White House staff only cares about profit and public image. Shame on Congress for allowing excutives orders to reverse protections. Future generations will have nothing, but polluted waters , dead sea and wildlife.

  45. Ellie Vaughter

    The SOBs in Washington care more about money than people. Money is running and ruining our country. DO NOT LET MONEY BUY YOUR GOOD JUDGEMENT, AND VOTE TO PROTECT OTHER LIFE ON THIS PLANET.

  46. Lynn McGraw

    My entire family supports President Trump, but please make America great again by protecting OUR wildlife as you move forward. I look forward to hearing a positive response!

  47. Kathleen Fruehwirth

    I warned everyone I knew that a vote for trump was a vote for the death of this world. He bought this election with his own money and the money of all his buddies. He is nothing but a clown, a very dangerous clown.

  48. JC Honeycutt

    I grew up on a small farm in North Carolina. My dad worked for a construction company (he was the foreman of a sawmill crew): but he loved trees (he could walk through the woods and name every tree), wild places and took us on trips to the mountains or coast whenever he could afford to do so. We also enjoyed historic sites. If he was still living, he’d have a few choice words for Trump–or anyone who doesn’t respect nature and wild land and animals. We have to preserve our wild places–they aren’t “attractions” that can be built and later taken down and replaced at will.

  49. Deborah Pattinson

    Please don’t pollute the Pacific Ocean with the oil drilling. There are thousands of marine animals who will suffer and die due to these actions. Please put our planet before profit.

  50. Sue Canale

    We must fight for our environment,before Donald Trump destroys it..
    This is so absurd that he is doing this…He has no respect for America or wildlife
    Write your congressman or Senate

  51. Fraidell Fenster

    Remember Theodore Roosevelt? He was a President who befriended Jon Muir, a Scottish native who fell in love with the vastness of America. Get out into the beauty that is this wonderful country. Once you are enlightened to its inescapable beauty, maybe you’ll reconsider the potential destruction of it for profit. Once its gone, its gone!

  52. Karen Eldridge

    Shame, Shame, Shame on you Donald Trump!

  53. Claudia Wright

    Please keep defending out wildlife.
    Thank you for all you do to protect the innocent.

  54. Mike Lesley

    Oil drilling is a potential hazard to our oceans and other valuable land areas and the animals who live there. Their future is risky if drilling is allowed to occur in these areas. The oil companies only care about monetary gain and not the possible consequences that could occur from this risky activity. The president has shown himself not to be a friend to the environment; only to big business and his buddies.

  55. Cal Cole

    SAVE the planet !!!! It is all we have !!!!!!!!!!!!


    I NEED YOU TO PROVIDE UPDATES ON ALL OF YOUR LAWSUITS AND CHALLENGES IN COURT AGAINST attacks on our oceans, communities and wildlife! i NEED FURTHER DETAILS ON HOW YOUR WILL FIGHT THIS patently illegal attempt to unilaterally revoke permanent protections for treasured ocean havens.

  57. Gary Gilbert

    Please stop making all decisions about money for big business and rich people.

  58. Patricia Nye

    When the pollution in the world’s oceans is the size of CONTINENTS it is way passed time for action to protect everything connected to the oceans!

  59. Adil Mehta

    Thank you for all your efforts and work to help preserve nature and wildlife.
    If someone wants to make “AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”, it is certainly not those folks who are bent on destroying American landscapes, natural habitat for wildlife and taking away environmental safeguards and laws.

  60. Bib guyer

    This will kill animals! And pollute our waters!

  61. Jean Stevens

    Please save Public Lands for future generations and respect those Presidents of the USA who followed the lead of Teddy Roosevelt to preserve our lands which are rich in history, archaeology, and bio-diversity.

  62. Juanita Puntasecca

    Offshore drilling is an environmental disaster for people, animals and the environment! There is no way the drilling could be more profitable than the damage occurred by doing so.
    I understand that money is a motivator but look and compare the damage incurred by all then you must see that it really is a lose-lose situation! Please, don’t destroy our shores. Can’t you learn from BP and the other “accidents ” ? I will not be good for anyone including your ego.
    Please, scrap this plan once and for all. We have one planet… let’s not destroy it.

  63. Donna Bening

    Our inter-dependent web of life is at risk from the rush to extract petro-chemical products from the earth. The abandonment of safeguards that recognize the environment and the wildlife in that habitat is risky for all — our habitat and our food supply.

  64. Douglas Casner

    For all of you who voted for Trump, I hope your house is wayyyyy back from the shore, or way up high on stilts.

  65. Dini DiNatale

    Offshore drilling IS the worst choice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There ARE other alternatives that SHOULD BE CHOSEN like wind turbines or solar!!!! Both use what’s already here, the wind and sun!!!!!

    These are already being used effectively and efficiently; let’s STOP putting our environment and wildlife in jeopardy and get smart about our choices!!!!!

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