NOAA: Indivisible Gainesville Comments on Marine Mammal Harassment during seismic tests for oil drilling

Numerous reputable studies have confirmed that whales and other marine animals experience stress, if not direct physical harm, from exposure to seismic surveys such as those currently being proposed. These surveys have clearly been shown to affect the foraging and mating behaviors of ecologically sensitive species.  They have been linked to transit from feeding and mating grounds. In addition, multiple incidences of mass beaching of whales have resulted from exercises with military sonar.  This evidence alone should give pause to those who would undertake these surveys.

We cannot afford further endangering already stressed ecologies. A review of current studies reveals several disturbing facts:

  • At least 37 marine species have been shown to be affected by seismic
    airgun noise.
  • Bowhead whales have been driven away from feeding areas as far as 20 km
    from operating airguns.
  • Seismic airgun noise results in behavioral changes including decreased
    foraging, changes in vocalizations, displacement from important habitat,
    and decreased catch rates.
  • Airgun noise also results in physical effects, including decreased egg
    viability and growth, hearing damage, traumatic injuries, tissue damage,
    and even death by drowning or stranding.
  • The waters off coastal Georgia and Florida, part of the area for the
    proposed testing, are the only known calving ground of the critically
    endangered northern right whale.
  • While mitigation protocols are in place to protect marine animals during
    sonic testing, these protocols depend on visual detection of affected
    animals. However, many deep-diving species, such as beaked whales, are
    difficult to see and thus underreported. As a result, beaked whales have
    died following Navy sonar exercises, apparently from ascending too quickly
    when startled and attempting to escape the sound source.

Given these disturbing facts, we ask that you prohibit the use of seismic airgun surveys in the Mid- and South Atlantic.

Authors: The Indivisible Gainesville Research Team

Source 1:
Weilgart, L. (2013). “A review of the impacts of seismic airgun surveys on marine life.”

Source 2:
Effects of seismic surveys on fish, fish catches and sea mammals: Report for the Cooperation group – Fishery Industry and Petroleum Industry

Source 3:
http://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.427801

Source 4:
https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2017-11542/p-102

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