Oil Surveys Deafening Whales

Sonar blasts disrupt mating, eating habits

whale dolphin deaf air gun oil industry extraction

The oil industry exacts a heavy toll on marine wildlife.     Photo: Daniel von Mentlen/Flickr

In a recent letter to President Obama, lawmakers expressed concern over some of the effects that recent oil survey practices may have on marine life. Energy companies map the ocean floor by using air guns that emit acoustic pulses down to the bottom of the sea and create images based on the type of sediment and its density. This gives researchers clues as to where they might find new repositories of oil. It's also leaving many animals deaf.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. and Rep. Frank Lautenberg, both from New Jersey, asked Obama to stop the use of seismic testing before another "Deepwater Horizon type event occurs."

Environmentalists, conservationists, and fishermen say the sonar studies are so noisy they can damage the hearing of dolphins and other marine life, cause whales to beach themselves and disrupt animals’ mating and feeding habits.

Those blasts of compressed air can be more than 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine, said Jacqueline Savitz, deputy vice president of Oceana.

“These loud and constant blasts could lead to serious impacts for marine life,” Savitz said, noting that 900 dead dolphins washed ashore with signs of ear damage after seismic air gun testing in Peru.

According to the ocean energy bureau, 38 marine mammal species are in the area that could be surveyed, including endangered baleen whales and manatees. The bureau’s draft environmental study concluded that seismic surveys could affect as many as 11,748 bottle nose dolphins, 4,631 short-finned pilot whales, and 6,147 short-beaked common dolphins.

Via Fuel Fix

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