Opinion: Seismic air gun surveys used to locate oil deposits in the Atlantic Ocean harm marine life wildlife

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By Jonathan Ramirez
Illustration by CANSTOCKPHOTO

The oil industry and the Trump administration stand on the throats of marine life, money in hand.

On Nov. 30  2018 President Donald Trump approved the use for seismic air guns which allows the National Marine Fisheries Service to authorize the permits for five companies along the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to central Florida to locate spots for offshore drilling, according to AP News.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the seismic surveys consists of blasting the airguns into the ocean floor in ten second intervals which will bounce information back using a computer mapping system to pinpoint the location of buried oil and gas deposits.

However, seismic airguns are more than just offshore drilling locators, they are acoustic death machines designed to generate more fossil fuel profit.   

“The blasts — which can reach more than 250 decibels and be heard for miles — can cause hearing loss in marine mammals, disturb essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding, mask communications between individual whales and dolphins, and reduce catch rates of commercial fish,” the CBD said. Blasts end up going on for 24 hours a day, going from weeks to even months.

Animals that use echolocation or sonar communication are being directly disrupted from what they have been evolved to do for millions of years. Marine mammals such as whales and dolphins use sound to communicate with each other, mate and feed. They will not have anywhere to hide from these harmful blasts making it harder for these animals to function as they are biologically ingrained to for their own survival. Functions that can also include detecting imminent dangers.

One group of whales in particular, the North Atlantic right whale, may severely be impacted by the use of the unnecessary air guns.

The North Atlantic right whale are critically endangered with having only fewer than 450 remaining along the east coast.

As stated in an article on The Washington Post, Scott Kraus explains that many right whales already have issues with having poor body conditions and that adding any further stressors will put them below the ability to reproduce.

By allowing the oil industry to potentially expedite the extinction of right whales, we easily see an administration that is time and time again willing to sacrifice the welfare of our planet for monetary gain.

Seismic air guns also decrease the amount of zooplankton in the ocean. Zooplankton, like small jellyfish or other small organisms, make up a section of the food chain that is necessary to feed other marine life. However, as reported by National Geographic, zooplankton decreased 64 percent within 4,000 feet of the blast.

Plankton plays a major role in the oceanic food chain as it is the main source for survival for a fish and other mammals. To deplete their existence is to deplete the existence of other marine life as well.

Even when we find the oil, do we still win?

We will continue to open ourselves up to oil spills and worsen ocean acidification as long as profit for fossil fuels exist.

The Trump administration continues to reverse environmental policies set by the Obama administration in an effort to benefit offshore drilling. An effort that is being sustained by greed and the undermining of environmental sciences that will continue to contribute to potential irreparable damage for our planet.

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