Posted by: The ocean update | March 2, 2014

Airgun Oil Exploration Wrongs Right Whales (East Coast, USA)

Photo © Sandy Dubpernel - May 13, 2003

Photo © Sandy Dubpernel – May 13, 2003

March 2nd, 2014 (David Biello). The U.S. government has given industry permission to use of lethally loud seismic devices up and down the East Coast. David Biello reports.

By exploding compressed air underwater, scientists map the subsurface of the seafloor. The process can reveal new deposits of fossil fuels and other important information—and now industry has permission to use airguns off the U.S. east coast. Which means more dead whales.

Cetaceans and other marine life rely on their ears to navigate. Air guns deafen them, if not kill them outright, as the U.S. Department of Interior admits. The sound is 250 decibels or more, much louder than a jet engine. Dozens of melon-headed whales washed up dead on Madagascar beaches following similar seismic air gun testing by ExxonMobil in 2008.

At new risk are cetaceans like the North Atlantic right whales. Five hundred or fewer remain. They’ll have something like dynamite going off in their oceanic living room every 10 seconds for days or even weeks at a time now.

Alternatives exist, from seafloor vibration-producers to revamped airguns that produce less sound but equally good images. Such choices might provide a little more peace and quiet in what’s become a very noisy ocean.

Ed Sibylline : more information


Airgun and Echosounders



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