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
- 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