The Sound of Seismic - Oil Prospecting in the Atlantic Ocean Could Have Serious Consequences for Endangered Marine Wildlife
Ear-shattering explosions echo through the ocean. Dolphins, whales and sea turtles scatter, trying to get away from the source of the noise. What’s making this deafening sound? Seismic testing.
Seismic testing is a way for oil companies to find oil and gas reserves beneath the ocean floor and determine where to set up drill rigs. Boats tow air guns through the water behind them that blast compressed air with massive force. The sound is like a stick of dynamite dropped down a well, and testing can go on around the clock for weeks. Because the signature of the sound waves changes over oil, the blasts create an audio-image that reveal fossil fuel deposits beneath the ocean floor. But at what cost?
The deafening noise levels caused by seismic testing have harmful effects on ocean-dwelling wildlife, some of which experts are still working to understand. The deafening booms of the air guns are capable of causing temporary or even permanent hearing loss in nearby animals. Explosions can interfere with whales’ and dolphins’ ability to echo-locate, which may cause them to strand and die on beaches. Whales have been observed going miles out of their way to avoid seismic testing ships. The noise can also prevent whales and other marine mammals from communicating with one another.
Many species of whales rely on their “songs” to attract mates, tell their fellow whales about food, or warn them of nearby threats. If seismic testing drowns out these songs, it’s difficult to know whether whales can adapt. Testing can also frighten away prey species for whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine animals.
Last year, the federal government considered allowing the sale of oil and gas leases along the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, running from federal waters off Virginia through North and South Carolina to Georgia. But the plan faced strong opposition from a wide coalition of local communities, as well as local, regional, and national conservation organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife.
While the Obama Administration has thankfully decided to take oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic off the table for the next five-year leasing plan, it is allowing seismic testing to move forward in the same area. It’s not clear when any companies will begin exploration; they must receive federal permits to do so first. But if they do, many species of marine wildlife will face new and serious challenges to their survival.
One whale in particular could be put in serious jeopardy by seismic testing. Only about 500 endangered North Atlantic right whales exist in the wild today, after extensive hunting in the nineteenth century nearly wiped them out. These whales already face plenty of threats, from ship strikes to entanglement in fishing gear. North Atlantic right whales generally stick close to the shoreline, migrating up to the Gulf of Maine in the summer, and spending the winter off the coast of Georgia to rest and calve in the warm, calm waters. The area where companies could begin seismic testing overlaps completely with right whale migration routes.
Sea turtles are also at risk, with many of their nesting beaches located near testing areas. Newly-hatched sea turtles make a stressful, exhausting dash from their sandy nests to the water and, once there, continue their journey to the open ocean. These tiny creatures already overcome the threats of predators, cars and other obstacles just to reach the water. If they also have to swim through the seismic testing area before they can reach the open ocean, the sound could disorient them, causing them to waste vital energy avoiding the source of the noise instead of finding safe haven.
We don’t know how marine species will respond to the disruptive blasts or what long-term effects seismic testing could have on their survival and recovery. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) drafted a report that concluded that seismic testing would only have “moderate” impacts on marine life when it first considered opening up the Atlantic coast to drilling. But based on scientific research and past evidence, the consequences are likely to be a serious concern. We must be vigilant and quick to respond if seismic testing is harming North Atlantic right whales and other imperiled species. Check back with us as this issue progresses — Defenders and our conservation allies are keeping a close eye on BOEM and oil companies alike. The post The Sound of Seismic appeared first on Defenders of Wildlife Blog.
For many years, In Defense of Animals has blazed a trail - identifying, exposing, and campaigning to make a better life for elephants confined and abused in circuses and zoos - and protecting them in the wild. With your kind support we have achieved some notable successes.
Most recently, we helped to end the Ringling Bros Circus' incessant transport of elephants and the cruel and unnatural performances they were forced to endure (although we are still pursuing a true sanctuary for these elephants).
Just last year, four zoos closed their cruel elephant exhibits, three of which appeared on the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list in previous years. We also contributed to successful legislative efforts to ban the sale of ivory and to cease the use of the archaic and painful bullhooks on captive elephants in various regions.
Now (just yesterday!) we were pleased to be able to take similarly strong action for whales and dolphins. We published our first ever listing of the Ten Worst Tanks - facilities where whales and dolphins suffer in captivity, confined to swimming in endless circles, deprived of healthy environments and social groups and forced to endure invasive reproduction techniques, dangerous transport, and exploited through "swim" and "petting" programs in which their sociable nature is brutally exploited.
Leading the list - our vote for "Greatest Disappointment"- is SeaWorld (all facilities combined, Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego.) SeaWorld recently announced an end to its orca breeding and shows. Instead of rethinking the public's growing distaste for imprisoned animals, SeaWorld is now expanding their exploitation of bottlenose dolphins through new "swim with dolphins" attractions and other methods.
In 2015, six young cetaceans died prematurely at SeaWorld facilities; teenage orca Unna, two baby beluga whales, and three young dolphins. Tilikum, the tormented orca featured in the revolutionary film Blackfish, is ailing and may be next.
Despite claims of having "the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine," a disturbing number of cetaceans are dying at SeaWorld, decades before their natural life expectancy.
Behind SeaWorld's announcement about phasing out orca breeding was a ruling from the California Coastal Commission which restricted the company's ability to breed orcas in San Diego. SeaWorld quickly threw away the key for the remaining 28 orcas in its concrete prisons with an impudent declaration that the animals would never see or feel the natural seawater of a sea-side sanctuary where they could retire in peace.
Never to feel seawater again?! Not on our watch! Give now and together, we WILL keep up the fight for Tilikum and other captive whales and dolphins!
You can see the full listing here: www.idausa.org/tenworsttanks.
The work to get to this point has involved travel to tanks across the Americas, intensive review of government and veterinary records and death reports, gathering of images, collection of data, and more. It was not an inexpensive undertaking. The investigation has taken the better part of the past twelve months.
But we're there and the response from around the world, including the press, has been impressive. And it's been only one day. We will be working overtime to keep this tragedy in front from of the eyes of the world.
Please, if there is any way you can, donate today to help defray the considerable cost to get us to the point where we have been able to bring these facts to the full light of the public eye.
Our campaign has begun. In Defense of Animals will be working tirelessly and expertly to effect long overdue changes so these majestic, intelligent, and very social animals can live out their days in peace.
We need your support. Please stand with us today by being as generous as you possibly can.
Photo of Rescuers Saving Stranded Dolphin Will Inspire You to Do Your Part for the Oceans. Humans haven’t exactly made life easy for marine animals. Every year we dump 8.8 million tons of plastic trash straight into the oceans, commercial fisheries have over-exploited or depleted a majority of fish stocks, and we have made it a habit of endangering marine animals all for the sake of selfies. We might not think about it often, but without a thriving ocean ecosystem, the world as we know it would not exist. The oceans produce around 70 percent of the world’s oxygen and act as vital carbon sinks that help slow the progression of climate change. But all of this will stop if we don’t take action to slow the inevitable collapse of the world’s oceans.
There are many ways that we can all lend a hand to help marine animals, but it all starts with fostering a deep respect for these creatures. We need them more than they need us, so we all need to step up and aid their survival. Thankfully, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team is doing just this.
A huge part of what this awesome team does is rescue and rehabilitate stranded whales and dolphins. While there are many reasons that experts believe cetaceans strand themselves on land, a few include ship strikes, plastic ingestion, or an injury caused by commercial fishing nets. The IFAW team recently witnessed a string of three different stranding events involving Atlantic white-sided dolphins off of Cape Cod.
In a blog post update, IFAW’s Kristen Patchett explains that the rescues of these animals were complicated due to numerous public interventions. People often have good intentions when approaching stranded marine animals, but ultimately, professional help is needed to prevent excess stress which can cause more harm than good.
This awesome rescue team worked tirelessly to come to the aid of the animals in need, and this single photo captures the immense dedication of their efforts.
Thankfully, thanks to their knowledge and expertise, the IFAW team was able to rescue all the dolphins who were stranded over this three-day span and after medical treatment, the animals were successfully released to the wild.
How You Can Help Marine Animals
We might not all be able to help marine life in the same way these rescuers did but we can play our part by taking quick action and calling professionals whenever we come across a marine animal in need.
To find out how you can help protect the oceans and its inhabitants, check out these resources:
Image source: IFAW/Flickr
Lulu is Free!
Thank Rescuers for Saving Endangered Dolphin Trapped in Shallow Water.
Target: Ahmer Bilal Soofi, President of World Wildlife Fund Pakistan - Click to say thanks!
Goal: Thank rescuers for saving a critically endangered Indus river dolphin who was trapped in shallow water.
Local fishermen saw a small Indus river dolphin swim into a tributary where she became stuck in the shallow waters. The water was getting shallower with each passing day and the fishermen kept an eye on the lone dolphin, hoping she would find her way back to the deeper river. Unfortunately she did not, and she was then trapped under the brutally hot sun.
Sadly, only about 1,200 Indus river dolphins are believed to be left on this planet. The small population of this species makes it even more important to help them whenever possible.
Thankfully, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pakistan was called in. Rescuers jumped into action upon arriving at the scene. The dolphin was carefully captured and transported up the river where she was released. WWF Pakistan has saved 119 Indus river dolphins from situations similar to this. Sign this petition and thank WWF Pakistan for all its hard work in saving the animals and the planet.