Imagine having to hear a sound almost as loud as an explosive going off every ten to twelve seconds for weeks or months at a time. As humans, we would all find this to be a horrible experience. Unfortunately, this is regularly happening to marine species in the Gulf of Mexico. Companies desperately seeking more oil and gas have turned to oceans for their latest hunting grounds. While searching for oil and gas resources under the ocean floor, these companies use high-powered airguns that release intense blasts of compressed air into the water. The sound can reach more than 250 decibels, the second loudest human made sound after explosives.
Environmental groups have been warning for years about the devastating effects these seismic blasts can have on marine animals. A recent draft environmental impact statement (EIS), focusing on the northern Gulf of Mexico which is one of the most explored areas by oil and gas companies, further proved these devastating effects. A number of injuries are inflicted on marine life in these blasts, but perhaps one of the most common injuries marine animals obtain from seismic blasts is hearing loss. Hearing loss is extremely devastating to whales and dolphins because these animals rely on their hearing to find food, reproduce, and communicate. These blasts have the ability to take their primary survival methods. If these seismic blasts continue in the Gulf, the EIS states that 31.9 million marine animals will endure injury or harassment as a result. Some of the species in this area are already at risk, including sperm whales who have an estimated population of only about 763 in the northern Gulf region.
Let’s not forget about the BP oil spill in 2010 from which the Gulf of Mexico is still recovering. An estimated 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the water following this disaster. This spill caused the death and physical and health deformities of many fish and birds. A number of other large oil spills have occurred during offshore drilling with equally destructive impacts on marine life. Every time a company drills for oil in a large body of water, spills like this are always a risk. Fishermen suffer as a result of these spills too, as shrimp fisheries following the BP oil spill in 2010 were closed for about a year following the spill. However, it does not take a spill for the fishing industry to suffer. One survey found that catch rates of cod and haddock declined by between 40 to 80 percent as these fish fled their habitats following seismic blasts in the area.
When we allow so much freedom for offshore drilling companies, we prioritize the profits of oil and gas industries over the lives of marine animals and the jobs of fishermen.
Daniel Klein, Intern