Editor’s Note–Oceana is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. It was founded in 2001 and is now the largest international organization focused entirely on marine conservation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Oceana.
Top 10 Reasons NOT to turn the Atlantic Ocean into a Blast Zone
By Matthew Huelsenbeck, marine scientist at Oceana
This coming Saturday, June 8, is World Oceans Day, the one day a year people around the globe set aside to celebrate and honor one of the world’s most precious habitats. The next world ocean’s day, however, might be a noisy disaster for the species you love in the Atlantic. On this day, next year harmful blasts from seismic airguns could be going off underwater every ten seconds, injuring or harassing dolphins, whales, sea turtles and fish. These deafening blasts are no way to celebrate the world’s ocean, but they soon could be a reality all year round if the U.S. Department of the Interior allows seismic airguns to be used to search for oil and gas off the coasts of seven states from Delaware to Florida.
Seismic airguns are towed behind ships and shoot loud blasts of compressed air at 250 decibels through the water and miles into the seabed to search for deep oil and gas deposits. These airguns make intense pulses of sound, almost as loud as explosives, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks on end. The blasts are so loud and constant that they can injure or disturb vital behaviors in fish, dolphins, whales and sea turtles. The blasts can be heard across an entire ocean basin.
Marine life impacts can include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, and even beachings and death. If approved, seismic airguns will threaten endangered whales, fisheries and coastal economies throughout the Atlantic.
These disruptive airguns are unnecessary and dangerous and here are the top 10 reasons why:
- The burning of oil and gas contributes to global climate change and ocean acidification, two of the most serious global threats to marine life.
- Seismic airgun testing is the first step towards deepwater drilling, the same practice that brought us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010.
- Because it displaces fish and can harm fisheries, seismic airgun testing threatens over 200,000 jobs in commercial and recreational fishing.
- Seismic airgun testing will injure roughly 138,500 whales and dolphins, nine of which are North Atlantic right whales, one of the most endangered species on the planet, based on the government’s own study.
- The proposed “blast zone” is an area of ocean twice the size of California.
- In 2008 in Madagascar dozens of melon-headed whales washed up dead after seismic testing by Exxon-Mobil.
- There are less harmful technologies than airguns on the horizon.
- Seismic testing or drilling in the Atlantic would not reduce U.S. gas prices by a penny.
- Oil and gas companies already own oil and gas leases on millions of acres of federal lands and waters, many of them are inactive and have not been developed.
- Atlantic offshore wind could supply more jobs and energy than oil and gas in the region.
Seismic airgun testing is the wrong step forward for this country. If we truly want to solve our energy needs, we need to invest in renewable energy, like offshore wind, and not move further towards dirty and dangerous deepwater oil drilling. World Oceans Day is the one day a year to reflect on everything the oceans have given us, and on this Saturday, we encourage others to take a stand and say “NO” to turning the Atlantic Ocean into a blast zone.
To learn more about seismic airgun testing, please click here.
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.