Six applications for airgun seismic survey permits have been turned down by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
Data gathered by such surveys are used to compile geophysical and geological maps of the ocean floor and are useful to offshore oil and gas exploration.
But critics say the airguns create damaging noise pollution which disrupts marine wildlife.
Oil industry spokesmen said that the surveys are needed because current available data is 30 years old.
In making its decision, covering the Mid- and South Atlantic Planning Areas, the BOEM – an agency that falls under the Department of the Interior and which manages the exploration and development of offshore energy and mineral resources – said one of the factors it considered was that recent bans on Atlantic drilling made the surveys less urgent.
The BOEM’s announcement was the final major act of the agency’s departing head Abigail Ross-Hopper who is moving to a job in the solar energy field.
It remains to be seen how cast-iron the drilling ban and this decision will be once President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20 as his cabinet appointees include numerous oil-friendly figures.