Gov. Christie's administration filed a complaint Friday in federal court in an attempt to stop a seismic testing project the state argues will harm fishing industries and marine life.

The action was praised by several environmental groups, which said the testing that began this week in federal waters southeast of Long Beach Island would hurt endangered whales, among other species, and would lead to oil and gas exploration and extraction.

Proponents of the project, which is being conducted by Rutgers University with federal funding, say it will help scientists study sea-level rise.

"This is a National Science Foundation project that is already well underway and is aimed at increasing our understanding of sea-level changes, which are critically important to all coastal states, and especially to New Jersey," Rutgers spokesman Carl Blesch said. The university is not a party to the lawsuit.

Blesch said the research began this week with "the necessary permits" and is continuing. It is scheduled to run for 36 days, Blesch said.

In South Carolina this week, Christie said seismic testing was "really bad for tourism. It's bad for the fishing industry. It's bad for our coastline."

"They're doing it to try to do more discoveries on climate change," he said during a meet-and-greet with Republicans in Columbia. "Quite frankly, I think there's lots of other ways to do that testing. They don't need to do it in the summer, in New Jersey, off our coast."

The state is asking the court to find that the project violates federal law. It also wants the court to order an environmental impact assessment before future seismic testing.

The state lost a similar lawsuit last year to block the testing, which involves underwater blasts of compressed air. But the project did not move forward at that time because of mechanical problems with the research vessel, officials said.