Environmental groups are seeking a court order to block seismic testing for oil off the coast of Georgia and other states until a lawsuit can be heard.
Seismic testing uses loud blasts of sound to check for deposits of oil underwater and can put animals like whales and dolphins at risk.
Diane Hoskins with Oceana said many marine animals depend on sound for survival.
"Everything from feeding, mating, communicating, and avoiding predators," she said. "And so disrupting these functions that are necessary for their survival could risk serious injury or even death."
Environmental groups, local governments, and coastal states are suing to block the testing altogether. But they fear the testing could begin before the lawsuit is resolved.
"We're seeking to prevent all the harm that would come along with the blasting," said Hoskins. "And as soon as blasting begins, harm begins."
The federal government could begin issuing permits for seismic testing in March.
If granted by a judge, Wednesday's motion would prevent it from moving forward until the lawsuit is decided.