Marine mammals are at risk as the US government gives the go-ahead for the seismic exploration of oil deposits off the US east coast
Last Friday the Obama Administration announced its approval of the use of seismic testing along the east coast of the US to explore offshore oil deposits. The US State Department of Environmental Protection, Congressmen and environmental groups all have criticised the decision saying the proposed survey risked the lives of 138,000 dolphins and whales, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale of which fewer than 500 individuals remain.
Seismic testing involves air guns which blast compressed air, 100,000 times louder than a jet engine, into the ocean. These blast are capable of mapping oil and gas deposits in the ocean floor and go off every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, sometimes for several weeks or months. Matthew Huelsenbeck, a marine scientist at Oceana, compared the sound to 'dynamite going off in your living room or in your backyard'.
In October 2013, the International Whaling Commission released a report that for the first time connected sonar testing to the deaths of marine animals.
Criticising the proposed survey, the US State Senator for New Jersey Robert Menendez said, 'The use of these seismic cannons not only endangers the marine life off of our coasts, but is a step towards opening up New Jersey’s coastal communities to the kind of catastrophic environmental damage that we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico.'
Conservationists fear that seismic blasts also pose a threat to regional fisheries and the livelyhood of coastal communities who depend on healthy oceans.