Just because President Obama put a five-year kibosh on oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic doesn’t mean that the ocean is now safe for whales and other marine life. Far from it.
Oil companies will still be free to blast away with underwater sonic cannons, prospecting for every last barrel of goo hiding beneath the ocean floor. They will be free to damage and destroy marine life in the process. They’ll be free to hasten the extinctions already underway due to man-made climate change.
Call it pre-emptive plunder. The thinking behind the White House giving approval to exploration without immediate extraction is that once the current global oil glut depletes itself, and higher prices make it worth the market god’s while, the multinationals will have their mother lodes all mapped out for them. They’re simply being proactive.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently considering eight separate applications for seismic blast testing for oil and gas in the Atlantic. To visualize what this “mapping” will do to wildlife, try to imagine undergoing a diagnostic ultrasound in the middle of a war zone. Imagine that submitting yourself to such a test would not only render you permanently deaf, it would also very likely drive you insane. Imagine that the sound would be so loud that you would lose all sense of direction and not even be able to find your way home from the clinic. Imagine if you had your children with you, and the sonic blast had the effect of making you forget that you even had children.
That is what oil company sonic blasting will do to whales, sea turtles and other sentient beings. The sound can travel underwater for more than 2,000 miles to do its damage. According to marine conservation scientist Douglas Nowacek, the sound blasts can reach 260 decibels and continue for weeks or months on end.
“Each survey would discharge its airguns approximately every 10 or 12 seconds, and would operate 24 hours per day,” he told Congress last year. “If these…