Date ArticleType
1/3/2019 Member News

Does seismic blasting harm marine life?

By Robert C. Jones Jr.

When the Trump administration late last November authorized the use of seismic airgun blasting to locate untapped oil and gas reserves deep underneath the Atlantic Ocean along the Eastern Seaboard, environmental groups expressed outrage, saying that such ear-piercing surveys would harm marine life. 

The administration’s action, which reverses an Obama-era policy against the use of seismic surveys, is “shortsighted and dangerous,” Diane Hoskins, campaign director of Oceana, said in a statement. “Seismic air gun blasting can harm everything from tiny zooplankton and fish to dolphins and whales.” 

Although the National Marine Fisheries Service said it expects no marine life will be harmed by the surveys, some scientists disagree, saying that the blasts could affect the mating, communicating, and feeding patterns of marine mammals.

“Marine mammals use sound to communicate, navigate, and hunt for prey,” said Jill Richardson, program director and senior lecturer in the Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “Evolutionarily, they capitalized on the effective propagation of sound underwater, but this also makes them very susceptible to noise pollution. Airgun noise can be so pervasive, spatially and temporally, that it can be debilitating.” 

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