Seismic Blasts in Atlantic Ocean Threaten 138,000 Marine Animals


Due to seismic blasts and oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean off of the coast of America, the lives of 138,000 marine animals, including the endangered North American right whale will be threatened. The oil drilling will involve underwater investigation through the use of seismic blasts which could cause harm to marine life, and has already stirred controversy.

The Atlantic oil drilling is set to begin in 2017 after being delayed from it’s original 2011 start by the Obama Administration. The delay was due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. In order to discover how much oil is available and the exact location, engineers and oil companies will use seismic guns to help pinpoint gas pockets and oil reserves. The seismic guns will shoot compressed air through the ocean which will travel through the water, touching the bottom of the ocean. As the compressed air makes contact with the ocean floor, it will hit different types of materials and change it’s pattern accordingly. The scientists who analyze the path of the seismic air will be able to determine where oil deposits can be found. This will help decide which procedures will take place to extract the oil. Those in favor of the seismic blasts promote this method, as it will help pinpoint where the oil reserves are, saving time and financial resources.

Oil companies are estimating that 1.3 to 5.58 billion barrels of oil may be extracted from drilling in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of America.

Many environmental and wildlife conservation groups are in opposition of the drilling and seismic blasts, as marine life could be harmed in the process. According to Suzee Hodges of the conservancy group Oceana, the seismic air-guns will strike approximately every ten seconds for months or weeks at a time. The blasts, which could occur for a year in the Atlantic Ocean are claimed by Hodges to be stronger than a jet plane engine.

The seismic blasts due to oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean could put over 138,000 marine animals in danger, including the North American right whale. Further, biologists state that migration and feeding patterns of over 13.6 million animals could be compromised, causing marine life physical harm. The intensity of the seismic blasts could cause hearing impairments in the marine life which could be temporary or have permanent lasting effects. This is thought by environmentalists and biologists to be highly dangerous for dolphins and whales, who rely heavily on sound waves and echolocation to communicate with others in their species and travel through the water. Marine biologists also state that the oil drilling could kill eggs and pupae, thus decreasing the population of some marine species.

One of the primary species threatened by the proposed oil drilling is the endangered North American right whale. The location of the seismic blasts is thought by researchers to disrupt the migration of this species, of which only 500 are thought to be alive in the wild. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has proposed a seismic air-gun blast ban in areas where the whales are present during the months that they migrate.

As the final approval of the seismic testing is not given until April of 2014 by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, environmental groups are petitioning against the proposed seismic blasts and oil drilling in the Atlantic ocean which is thought by environmentalists to threaten 138,000 marine animals.

By Allison Longstreet


National Geographic Daily News

Tech Times

The Seattle Times