Today, 75 scientists urged President Obama to stop oil and gas companies from using underwater explosions, which can harm whales and other marine mammals.
Because whales depend on sound waves to communicate, feed, mate, and travel, the blasting can disrupt the reproduction and feeding of blue whales and other endangered whales “over vast ocean areas,” the letter says. It expresses special concern for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which only 500 remain.
The blasts also “could have potentially massive impacts on fish populations,” according to the letter. In some countries seismic testing has driven away commercial species, resulting in dramatic drops in catch rates. Studies also show the airguns could kill fish eggs and larvae, interfere with breeding, and make some species more vulnerable to predators.
“People are rightly concerned about the dangers of offshore oil spills, but seismic blasting is likely to have a terrible impact on Atlantic sea life before the first well is even drilled,” said Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project.
The seismic surveys, used by oil companies to locate oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor, were evaluated last year by the Department of the Interior and would result in more than 20 million seismic “shots” over a multiyear period. “The Interior Department itself has estimated that seismic exploration would disrupt vital marine mammal behavior more than 13 million times,” the letter says.
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