The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
‘Was That Disruptive?’ Congressman Blasts Air Horn to Make Seismic Testing Proponents Hear a Fraction of What Whales Hear
Assistant Administrator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Chris Oliver was testifying before a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that the practice would not impact the animals when South Carolina Democratic Representative Joe Cunningham asked permission to blow an air horn, The Washington Post reported.
Permission granted, Cunningham sounded the horn.
"Was that disruptive, Mr. Oliver?" Cunningham asked.
"It was irritating, but I didn't find it too disruptive," Oliver responded.
Cunningham continued to push, as this transcript of the exchange published by Newsweek shows:
"What about every, say, ten seconds, like seismic airgun blasting, that goes on for days, weeks, months?" the congressman pressed.
"If I were that close to it, yeah, probably," Oliver admitted.
"What if you depended on sound for hunting your food and for communication? Do you think it would be disruptive?" Cunningham continued.
"At a distance of 20 feet, yes, it would be?" Oliver responded.
Cunningham asked Oliver to guess how much louder seismic air gun blasting was for whales when compared to the 120-decibel horn he had blasted. When Oliver could not, Cunningham told him that it was 16,000 times louder.
"Do you see how that would be impactful on marine species and mammals?"
"I do," Oliver said, "which is why we put mitigation measures in to minimize the proximity of that activity."
The hearing comes after NOAA granted five companies permits last November to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean to search for offshore oil and natural gas. South Carolina coastal communities and conservation groups then filed a lawsuit to block the practice that was joined by nine east coast states. The five companies are waiting for final permits from the Interior Department before they begin testing, The Washington Post reported.
NOAA officials argued at the hearing Thursday that no right whales have been killed by seismic testing in the Gulf of Mexico or Pacific Ocean, and that studies show its impacts are "sublethal."
However, conservation scientists testified that "sublethal" effects for individual whales could still have serious consequences for the survival of an extremely endangered species. There are only about 400 North Atlantic right whales left alive, and only 100 breeding pairs.
"Many right whales now have poor body scores that are just above the threshold of reproductive success, suggesting that any additional stressors ... will push them below any ability to reproduce," New England Aquarium vice president and senior science adviser Scott Kraus testified.
Cornell University scientist Christopher Clark said that the bowhead whale, a close relative of the right whale, responds so severely to even low levels of seismic testing that it stops communicating. Clark said that the testing could increase the chances that right whale mothers and calves would get separated.
"This is the cost to a marginally surviving population as a result of chronic noise from seismic air gun surveys," he said.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.
By Jeff Turrentine
From day to day, our public health infrastructure — the people and systems we've put in place to keep populations, as opposed to individuals, healthy — largely goes unnoticed. That's because when it's working well, its success takes the form of utter normalcy.
Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows Where Florida Springbreakers and New Yorkers Fleeing Coronavirus Went to Next
By Eoin Higgins
A viral video showing cell phone data collected by location accuracy company X-Mode from spring break partiers potentially spreading the coronavirus around the U.S. has brought up questions of digital privacy even as it shows convincingly the importance of staying home to defeat the disease.