Seismic & Sonar Testing

While whales and other marine life are threatened by international whaling and habitat loss, they also face a domestic threat. Navy sonar testing and seismic testing from the oil and gas industry regularly take place in areas where marine species thrive. Find out more about the impacts and what you can do to help.

Documenting Seismic testing Barents Sea

© Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

Seismic Testing

According to government estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will soon be injured and possibly killed along the east coast of the U.S. if exploration companies are allowed to use dangerous blasts of noise to search for offshore oil and gas.

And geophysical companies — working on behalf of oil and gas corporations —  are seeking permission from the government to use seismic airguns to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Their loud blasts are used on a recurring basis, going off every ten seconds, for 24 hours a day, often for weeks on end. They are so loud that they penetrate through the ocean and miles into the seafloor, then bounce back, bringing information to the surface about the location of buried oil and gas deposits.

Airgun blasts harm whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and fish. The types of impacts marine mammals may endure include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings, and even death. Seismic airguns could devastate marine life, harming fisheries and coastal economies along the Atlantic coast.

Sonar Testing

Along the entire east coast as well as in Hawaii, Southern California, and the Gulf of Mexico, the Navy plans to test sonar and explosive devices so deafening they cause whales to abandon their normal feeding grounds and migration patterns. The Navy’s own report states that more than 40 marine mammal species will be impacted, including the endangered humpback whale and the blue whale.

For marine mammals caught closer to the training exercises, the pain they would suffer would be immenseThe powerful sonar blasts will destroy their hearing and even cause their brains to hemorrhage. Naval sonar has already led to mass whale strandings, as disoriented whales attempt to escape the noise.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for the protection of these marine mammals, but instead of tossing out the Navy’s training plan, it gave the Navy the green light.

We’re continuing to document and bear witness to these issues. Join the movement to protect ocean life if you want to get involved!

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