U.S. to Allow Seismic Airgun Testing for Offshore Drilling Exploration, Will Threaten Marine Life
Yesterday, the U.S. government released a final proposal to allow the use of controversial seismic airguns to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), these dynamite-like blasts are expected to injure and possibly kill large numbers of dolphins and whales along the East Coast and disturb the necessary activities of millions more.
One species of particular concern is the North Atlantic right whale, the rarest large whale species, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide.
“By failing to consider relevant science, the Obama Administration’s decision could be a death sentence for many marine mammals, and needlessly turning the Atlantic Ocean into a blast zone,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. Oceans at Oceana. “If seismic airguns are allowed in the Atlantic, it will jeopardize wildlife as well as commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism and coastal recreation—putting more than 730,000 jobs in the blast zone at risk.
"In its rush to finalize this proposal, the Obama Administration is failing to consider the cumulative impacts that these repeated dynamite-like blasts will have on vital behaviors like mating, feeding, breathing, communicating and navigating."
Seismic airguns shoot extremely loud and repeated blasts of sound, each 100,000 times more intense than what one would experience if standing near a jet engine. The dynamite-like blasts occur every ten seconds, for days to weeks at a time.
A Deaf Whale Is a Dead Whale
The decision comes one week after more than 100 scientists called on President Obama and his administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service. These guidelines are 15 years in the making and aim to provide a better understanding of how marine mammals are impacted by varying levels of manmade sound as well as demonstrate the measures that are needed to protect them.
On Wednesday, Sen. Booker (D-NJ) and eight additional U.S. Senators sent a letter to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to hold off on issuing this administrative decision until all of the best available science, including these new acoustic guidelines, can be incorporated.
“With offshore drilling in the Atlantic more than four years away, there is absolutely no justification for failing to include the best available science in this decision,” said Savitz. “Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, and we should be doing everything we can to protect marine life from their loud blasts."
"These devices are loud enough to kill small animals like fish eggs and larvae at close ranges and can disrupt the behavior of large animals like whales and dolphins from up to 100 miles away. It’s as if the Obama Administration has learned nothing from the destruction that similar testing has caused off the coasts of Namibia, Australia and Madagascar.”
A Deaf Whale Is a Dead Whale
In comments to DOI, Oceana has argued that the federal government has not developed adequate closure areas to protect the migratory corridor and nursery of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and has failed to fully consider safer alternative technologies such as marine vibroseis, which is quieter that seismic airguns and has less of an impact on marine mammals.
An Oceana report released last year outlines the threats of seismic airgun use and offshore drilling to marine life and coastal economies along the East Coast, including the potential danger to commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as tourism and coastal recreation, which puts more than 730,000 jobs at risk in the blast zone.
Oceana has also delivered more than 100,000 petitions opposing seismic airguns to the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, as well as approximately 50 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, also called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns last year.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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