Tag Archive: marine mammals

Trump administration, oil companies threaten marine wildlife

Photo credit: Dr. Louis M. Herman for NOAA licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sarah Sloat, Inverse.com, writes about conservation activists fighting back against the Trump administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service “for issuing authorizations to five different companies allowing for ‘incidental harassment‘” of marine mammals as they survey the ocean floor in search of oil and gas off of the U.S.’s Atlantic coast. The authorizations are tied to five-year leases to explore and exploit the “potential 46 billion barrels of oil.”

So what will these companies do with the authorizations? They will first use seismic guns to search for the oil, and it’s the seismic guns that pose a real threat to marine wildlife.  Writes Sloat:

Seismic airguns are shot in pulses separated by 15 seconds: They can reach 260 decibels, but the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management prefers airguns reach 160 decibels, which is as loud as a jet taking off, and enough noise to rupture a human eardrum. Boats tow 12 to 48 airguns at a time, and their sonic bangs can be heard 2,500 miles away from the survey vessels. Here’s what seismic airguns sound like. [CAUTION: Lower your speaker volume before clicking.]

And Sloat cites Lindy Weilgart, Ph.D., a specialist in underwater noise pollution, who says there’s “’no longer any scientifically valid doubt’ that seismic airgun surveys pose a danger to marine life.” Weilgart added that the negative impacts of noise have been documented “in about 130 marine species, ranging from invertebrates to fish to whales.”

Click the first link to read the full story. It’s well worth your time, if for nothing else, to read about the bipartisan effort in congress to stop the seismic guns and impose a 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.

Yet another mystery noise. This time up north:

Canadian army investigates mysterious Arctic noise. Phys.org reports that the Canadian Army has been dispatched to investigate a strange beeping noise heard several times by Inuit hunters off the Fury and Hecla Straight. One theory was that the sound was made by marine mammals, because the strait is “usually frequented by narwhals, bowhead whales, ringed seals and bearded seals.” But the Inuit said that there were no animals left, as they all disappeared last year.  What is known is that the noise is loud and “it comes from the bottom of the sea.”  Although an initial investigation found no anomalies and the case was closed, the Canadian military decided to address Inuit concerns by sending two acoustic specialists to join a previously scheduled Canadian Rangers patrol to investigate further. And so the mystery noise remains a mystery, for now.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration announces new guidelines on ocean noise,

stating that the guidelines “show NOAA’s commitment to address effects of ocean noise on marine mammals.”

NOAA states that the roadmap “will serve as a guide across NOAA, reviewing the status of the science on ocean noise and informing next steps,” adding that it is “already taking on some of these recommendations, such as the recent launch of an underwater network of acoustic monitoring sensors.”   The focus is on the “approaches that [NOAA] can take with other federal and non-federal partners to reduce how noise affects the species and places we manage,” said W. Russell Callender, assistant NOAA administrator for its National Ocean Service.  Callender continued, “[i]t also showcases the importance that places like national marine sanctuaries have as sentinel sites in building our understanding of ocean noise impacts.”

Let’s hope that the movement from guidance to action is a short one.