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A Deaf Whale is a Dead Whale: Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil and Gas Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies

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April 15, 2013

According to government estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will soon be injured and possibly killed along the East Coast if exploration companies are allowed to use dangerous blasts of noise to search for offshore oil and gas.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is considering allowing geophysical companies, working on behalf of oil and gas companies, to use seismic airguns to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound, which are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.

These loud blasts are used on a recurring basis, going off every ten seconds, for 24 hours a day, often for weeks on end. They are so loud that they penetrate through the ocean, and miles into the seafloor, then bounce back, bringing information to the surface about the location of buried oil and gas deposits.

Airgun blasts harm whales, dolphins, sea turtles and fish. The types of impacts marine mammals may endure include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings and even death. Seismic airguns could devastate marine life, and harm fisheries and coastal economies along the Atlantic coast. Seismic testing in the Atlantic would also be the first major step toward offshore drilling, which further harms the marine environment through  leaks, oil spills, habitat destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.

This seismic testing, and all of the consequences that may ensue, are unnecessary because there cannot be any drilling in the Atlantic for at least the next five years, and oil and gas companies already own undeveloped leases on millions of acres of federal lands and waters.


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Download "A Deaf Whale is a Dead Whale: Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil and Gas Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies" (PDF)