Environmentalists protest seismic airgun testing

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Seismic Airgun Testing

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is currently considering seismic airgun testing for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. But environmentalists are on a campaign to educate the public about the potential dangers of this practice.

Seismic testing involves the use of airguns, which are towed behind ships and shoot loud blasts of compressed air at 250 decibels through the water and miles into the seabed. The testing is done to search for oil and gas deposits.

According to Oceana, these airguns make intense pulses of sound, almost as loud as explosives, every ten seconds — 24 hours a day for days to weeks on end. The group says the blasts are so loud and constant that they can injure or disturb vital behaviours in fish, dolphins, whales and sea turtles. Oceana argues that if approved, seismic airguns will threaten marine life, fisheries and coastal economies throughout the Atlantic.

The DOI has reportedly conducted its own assessment of seismic airgun testing. The department concludes the testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales, including nine critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. According to Oceana, there are only 361 right whales left in the world — making it the rarest among large whale species.

The group recommends that the DOI halt its plans for seismic airgun testing. It wants state and federal policymakers to instead focus on expanding offshore wind development off the Atlantic coast. Oceana argues that offshore wind provides more jobs and energy than offshore drilling, minus the risks to the environment from seismic airguns, oil spills and carbon emissions.

Although testing will take place only along the coasts of seven states from Delaware to Florida, environmentalists say the impact will affect marine life along the entire East Coast.

More information on the impact of seismic airguns can be found on Oceana’s website, and in the infographic below:

Seismic Airgun Testing Infographic