Blog Tags: Seismic Airgun Testing
Yesterday the California Coastal Commission rejected a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric to conduct high-energy seismic testing in the ocean surrounding the Diablo Canyon Power Plant near Morro Bay, CA, citing the unacceptable harm such testing would visit upon marine life. The proposal faced massive opposition from a wide coalition of conservation organizations like Oceana and commercial and recreational fishing interests concerned about impacts to fisheries and marine wildlife. This is an important precedent and one that the Department of the Interior should take seriously as it mulls whether to open an enormous expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida, to seismic airgun testing to search for oil and gas deposits.
As initially proposed by Pacific Gas and Electric, the surveys would have entailed blasting 250-decibel pulses of compressed air at the seafloor every fifteen seconds for 9 days. Before the ruling, Pacific Gas and Electric warned that scuba divers in the area could be in danger from the airgun blasts, to say nothing of the fish and marine mammals unfortunate enough to be caught near the testing area. Conservationists and fishermen were concerned that the proposal would damage marine life in the recently designated marine protected areas.
"The proposed tests posed an unacceptable threat to a wide suite of critically important marine life including endangered whales, not to mention untold damage throughout the ocean food chain" said Geoff Shester, Oceana California Program Director after the ruling. "The Commisson’s decision sends a strong signal that this type of seismic testing is simply incompatible with the protection of valuable marine resources."
But the rejected Diablo Canyon proposal pales in comparison to what is currently being planned in the Atlantic where, by the federal government’s own estimate, 138,500 whales and dolphins would be injured by seismic airgun testing for fossil fuels. The Atlantic plan has drawn the hackles of more than just environmentalists. The fishing community is rightfully concerned about the effect such testing would have on their $12 billion industry, having seen fish stocks vanish elsewhere seismic testing has taken place.
All of this just to prolong the dubious legacy of offshore drilling. As Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless wrote in a Politico op-ed, ramped up domestic production of fossil fuels will not lead to cheaper prices at the pump (gas prices are set on the global market).
California made the right decision. Let the Department of the Interior know you want them to make the right decision too. Add your photo to our facebook petition and spread the word.
Editor’s note: This blog by actress and environmentalist Victoria Principal was originally posted at NRDC’s OnEarth blog.
I’ve been fascinated with marine life like whales and dolphins since I was a kid. Their grace and power, their beauty and intelligence, their joy and their song -- they are truly special creatures.
Now, as an adult, I feel a responsibility to do all I can to help protect ocean wildlife from environmental risks … like the latest threat posed by oil companies dead set on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.
In case you haven’t heard, for the first time in 30 years the U.S. government plans to open up the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Delaware to high-intensity seismic exploration for offshore oil and gas.
It's a disaster waiting to happen. After the BP oil spill I teamed up with NRDC and Oceana to help protect the ocean from further tragedy. In an effort to stop these seismic testing plans from happening, we’ve created a Facebook photo petition urging the Secretary of Interior to abandon this plan. Please “sign” the petition by adding your Facebook profile photo!
Add your picture to our Facebook photo petition urging the Department of the Interior to abandon the proposal to allow seismic testing in the Atlantic that could injure hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins!
Not only is seismic testing the gateway to drilling off our coasts, it represents in itself a major assault on our oceans, with widespread harm to ocean wildlife like whales, dolphins and fish. Seismic testing in the Atlantic would expose ocean wildlife to constant dynamite-like blasts about every 10 seconds, 24-hours a day, for weeks and months on end. Even the government admits it could injure up to 138,500 marine mammals and disrupt marine mammal feeding, calving, breeding, and other vital activities more than 13.5 million times.
And because of the enormous distance sound can travel in the ocean, the noise from seismic testing can stretch many hundreds of miles and drive whales to abandon their habitats, go silent, and cease foraging over vast areas of ocean. At shorter distances, it can cause permanent hearing loss, injury, and death.
It would also harm our multi-billion dollar fishing, tourism, and recreational industries that support hundreds of thousands of American jobs. All of this just to make it easier for oil companies to find new sites in our oceans for offshore drilling.
And that just breaks my heart.
The upside though is that we can do something about it. If enough people add their photo to the petition, the Secretary of the Interior will have to take notice. It’s not too late to turn this thing around.
If you’re not on Facebook, you can also sign our traditional-style petition here. Every signature counts!
Yesterday Oceana and its supporters braved foul weather to protest a truly foul idea. Armed with airhorns and megaphones they gave the Department of the Interior (DOI) a tiny preview of what is in store for the ocean’s inhabitants should the Department allow seismic airgun testing to go forward in the Atlantic Ocean.
The DOI is currently reviewing a proposal to use seismic airguns to search for pockets of oil and gas in a huge expanse of ocean from Delaware to Florida. The effects of these round-the-clock tests, which will run for days on end with dynamite-like blasts firing at 10 second intervals, will be devastating to marine mammals and fish alike.
As Oceana marine scientist Matthew Huelsenbeck said at the event:
“There is only one word that I can use that sums up this proposal: unacceptable. The levels of impacts to protected dolphins and whales, including critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale are simply unacceptable.”
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