Federal agencies have determined that seismic exploration for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico will harass and harm tens of thousands of marine mammals, including the Gulf’s remaining 763 endangered sperm whales. Raise your voice and tell these agencies that business-as-usual cannot continue.
As the result of a settlement secured by Earthjustice and our clients and partners in the Gulf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has released an environmental impact statement showing that, left unchecked, seismic surveys will injure or harass marine mammals up to 31.9 million times in the next decade. The surveys will render over 4.3 million exposures loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss or other injuries, including up to 588 injuries to the Gulf’s Bryde’s whales—or about 17 times for each of the 33 members of this imperiled population.
Seismic surveys flood the ocean with intense sound to locate oil and gas deposits below the sea floor. Seismic airgun arrays are towed across vast swaths of ocean and fire every 12-16 seconds, up to 24 hours a day for weeks to months on end. Each of these blasts can exceed 235 decibels—louder than a rocket launch and many hundreds of times louder than the noise level that would cause pain in the human ear. This sound can travel thousands of miles underwater—harassing and disrupting animal behavior far from the source. For marine mammals—whales and dolphins specifically—that depend on their sense of sound for most life functions, this industrial noise is detrimental to their ability to find prey, navigate, and communicate with one another.
As much as we like to think that the practice of hunting whales for oil has stopped, injuring whales in pursuit of deep-sea oil deposits raises the question of whether that’s really true. Deafening a whale is the equivalent of killing that whale—it just happens more slowly.
This widespread harmful practice needs to be stopped. Let’s urge the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to stop unnecessary seismic testing in the Gulf of Mexico!
It’s also important to place these seismic surveys in the broader context of our fight to protect oceans from drilling and the planet from the worst effects of climate change.
Flooding the ocean with noise from seismic surveys is a devastating one-two punch for the ocean. At a time when our oceans are already showing the stress of climate change, it just doesn’t make sense to harm whales, dolphins, and other ocean wildlife in service of drilling for more oil we can’t afford to burn.
November 15, 2016 Action Alert ID# 449
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