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.”
According to the Department of the Interior’s own assessment (which is likely an underestimate) opening the vast area to seismic airgun testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales, including nine critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales left on Earth. The testing would also cause 13.5 million disruptions to marine mammals during such vital behaviors as feeding, calving and breeding. It could also disrupt loggerhead sea turtles as they travel to nesting beaches.
Among the injuries to marine mammals from this kind of testing are temporary and permanent hearing loss. Earlier this year about 900 long-beaked common dolphins and black porpoises washed up dead following an episode of seismic testing off of Peru. Necropsies of the dolphins showed blood coming from their ears and fractures in their periotic ear bones, which could have been caused by the testing. For animals that rely so critically on sound to navigate their habitat, find food and communicate, going deaf is, for all intents and purposes, a death sentence.
All of this just to find out if there is any offshore oil and gas to exploit. In carrying out the seismic airgun testing we would be disrupting an already established fishing industry in the same area that supports 200,000 jobs and is valued at almost $12 billion. The threats to the fisheries are real. Fisheries of cod and haddock saw their catches drop 40 to 80 percent after the use of just a single airgun array and fishermen in Norway have requested compensation for their loss in catch after the use of seismic airguns.
This sort of testing will help no one except for the oil and gas industry, and at great expense to the animals that call this vast expanse of the ocean home, not to mention the men and women who make a living on it.
Tell Secretary Salazar of the Department of the Interior that seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic is unacceptable.