New Study Finds that Seismic Airgun Blasting Can Kill Plankton - Oceana USA
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June 23, 2017

New Study Finds that Seismic Airgun Blasting Can Kill Plankton

A new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution found that noise from seismic airgun blasting – an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the seafloor – can kill zooplankton from a distance of almost three-quarters of a mile away, further than previously thought. A team of scientists conducted the study off the coast of Tasmania, using sonar and nets to measure populations of zooplankton before and after firing seismic blasts. Within an hour of the blasts, the scientists found zooplankton abundance had dropped by 64 percent.

“We knew it was bad for marine mammals and fish, but now we know it’s bad for the animals at the base of the food chain – the food for marine mammals and fish,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s senior vice president for U.S. oceans.  

In late April, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling into new areas like the Atlantic, while also reinitiating the permitting process for seismic airgun blasting in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.  

“This study shows us that the impacts of the seismic airgun blasting being proposed in the Atlantic were not fully considered by the government, as the law requires. They missed a whole category of impacts. The government needs to go back to the drawing board and fully assess the effects seismic airgun blasting could have on marine life, including impacts to the food web, before issuing these permits. The implications of not doing so could be devastating,” Savitz added.

Also yesterday, the New England Fishery Management Council joined the South and Mid-Atlantic Councils in voicing concerns about the impacts of offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting. To date, more than 125 East Coast municipalities, over 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families from Florida to Maine have opposed offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic.

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