Friday 1 April 2016

Deafening Atlantic oil prospecting to go ahead despite threat to marine life

The Obama administration is to allow surveying of the seabed using seismic airguns that have been likened to a ‘grenade blast’ for whales and other creatures
Overlap of proposed seismic airgun blasting areas and essential fish habitat and critical habitat in the Atlantic.
 Overlap of proposed seismic airgun blasting 
areas and essential fish habitat and critical 
habitat in the Atlantic. Photograph: Oceana

Wednesday 30 March 2016 13.00 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 30 March 201613.01 BST

The Obama administration is to press ahead with proposals to allow loud underwater prospecting for oil and gas off the east coast, even though the practice has been likened to being at the “epicenter of a grenade blast” for whales and other marine creatures sensitive to noise.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management(BOEM) is considering eight applications for seismic airgun testing which environmentalists say would imperil at-risk whales, sea turtles, sharks and other fish species.

Despite the Obama administration’s recent decision torule out oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, the airgun testing applications will still be assessed. The seismic airguns are used to emit repetitive blasts of compressed air through the water until they hit the seabed. The echoes from this process can be used to determine if there are deposits of oil and gas beneath the sea floor.

Applications for this testing cover vast areas of the Atlantic stretching from Delaware to Florida. Opponents of the testing claim it could potentially drive whales and fish from their habitat and interfere with their ability to find food and mate.

“We know that endangered whales and fish all change their behavior because of these blasts,” said Dr Ingrid Biedron, marine scientist at conservation group Oceana. “Whales use sound to find partners and food and we are worried these behaviors will be interrupted, or they may be displaced.

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