A federal agency has approved a plan to conduct seismic testing off the New Jersey coast, despite opponents' fears it could harm marine life and disrupt the state's fishing industry.


The National Marine Fisheries Service moved the plan closer to reality by issuing a permit Tuesday for the testing that allows harassment or harm to creatures, including whales and turtles that otherwise would be forbidden by federal law.

The National Science Foundation still needs to sign off on the testing.

The tests are designed to study the arrangement of sediments deposited on the ocean floor during times of changing global sea levels dating back 60 million years.

Environmentalists and fishing groups fear the acoustic blasting noises will harm sea life.