Tag Archives: ocean

Legal Action Taken to Protect Whales From Atlantic Oil Exploration in response to Trump’s Executive Order

President Trump issued an executive order Friday calling for the Department of the Interior to review its 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas leasing plan and all restrictions on offshore energy production, possibly opening up the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans to dangerous offshore drilling projects. Administration officials also said seismic testing in the Atlantic, which was removed from the final five-year plan, could proceed during that review.

WASHINGTON— Conservation groups have moved to intervene in an administrative appeal by the oil industry challenging a federal decision to reject six oil and gas exploration permits for the Atlantic Ocean. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management denied the seismic airgun survey applications in part because the loud blasts would hurt endangered North Atlantic right whales and other sensitive wildlife.
In denying the permits, the Bureau found that the “small, critically endangered, and declining population of” North Atlantic right whales, which recent surveys say include an estimated 476 whales, “would doubtless be disturbed by seismic activity.”

“Seismic blasts are so loud they can injure endangered right whales and other marine mammals. We’ve been working to save right whales from extinction, and we’re intervening in this appeal to ensure the safety of these rare whales from oil and gas exploration,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Seismic exploration surveys use high-powered airguns to search for deposits of oil and gas. They generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean, short of explosives. The blasts, which can reach more than 250 decibels, can cause hearing loss in marine mammals, disturb essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding over vast distances, mask communications between individual whales and dolphins, and reduce catch rates of commercial fish.
In addition to the Center for Biological Diversity, today’s motion was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), North Carolina Coastal Federation, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, One Hundred Miles and Defenders of Wildlife. The groups are represented by attorneys from NRDC, the Center and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Why we love the ocean, and what we can do to help

Dr. Sylvia Earle
Dr. Sylvia Earle

“I’m haunted by the thought of what Ray Anderson calls “tomorrow’s child,” asking why we didn’t do something on our watch to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean while there still was time.”  Sylvia Earle.


According to Dr. Wallace J Nichols, author of Blue Mind, we are programmed to love the ocean – it soothes out the stresses we experience and puts us in a meditative state. Whatever the reason, most of us love the seashore and all of us need a healthy ocean in order to survive – we’ve made a mess of it and need to make changes quickly if we’re going to save the oceans.
Scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle has been sounding an alarm about the ocean for years, and her message is that in addition to making lifestyle changes each one of us can use our  skills to do something to make a difference. I wish you would use all means at your disposal —films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — and campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas — hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet…For the children of today, for tomorrow’s child: as never again, now is the time.”

From the transcript of Dr. Earle’s Ted Talk (above):

Fifty years ago, when I began exploring the ocean, no one — not Jacques Perrin, not Jacques Cousteau or Rachel Carson — imagined that we could do anything to harm the ocean by what we put into it or by what we took out of it. It seemed, at that time, to be a sea of Eden, but now we know, and now we are facing paradise lost.

I want to share with you my personal view of changes in the sea that affect all of us, and to consider why it matters that in 50 years, we’ve lost — actually, we’ve taken, we’ve eaten — more than 90 percent of the big fish in the sea; why you should care that nearly half of the coral reefs have disappeared; why a mysterious depletion of oxygen in large areas of the Pacific should concern not only the creatures that are dying, but it really should concern you. It does concern you, as well.

I’m haunted by the thought of what Ray Anderson calls “tomorrow’s child,” asking why we didn’t do something on our watch to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean while there still was time. Well, now is that time. I hope for your help to explore and protect the wild ocean in ways that will restore the health and, in so doing, secure hope for humankind. Health to the ocean means health for us.

And I hope Jill Tarter’s wish to engage Earthlings includes dolphins and whales and other sea creatures in this quest to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And I hope, Jill, that someday we will find evidence that there is intelligent life among humans on this planet.

The message of World Oceans Day  (June 8th) is that we can do something  – small changes made by everyone will make a difference to the health of the oceans and ultimately to the planet. They suggest the following to give you ideas:
-I pledge to buy sustainable fish
-I pledge to ask my local grocer to stick sustainable seafood
-I pledge to not eat meat on Mondays
-I pledge to bring reusable bags to the grocery store
-I pledge to get a resuable water bottle
-I pledge to bike to work one day a week instead of drive
-I pledge to shop a thrift store first instead of buying new
-I pledge to buy local food first

You decide: how much of your heart do you want to protect? Whatever it is, a fraction of one percent is not enough. ” Sylvia Earle

 #WaveForChange   #WorldOceansDay

What Leonardo DiCaprio, President Obama, and Secretary of State Kerry Want You to Know

Leonardo DiCaprio has just cast both his fame and a small fortune  into solving ocean conservation problems and is counting on all of us to help.  On the political front, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to put the ocean health high on their agendas, and there is a sense of urgency underlying their stance.

In some ways, it is the wild west out on the oceans, where greed exceeds rationality, but we may be on our way to doing something about it. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that President Obama plans to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument, a grouping of seven islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is making ocean health a priority:

An online course called “Ocean Solutions”, taught by Professor Duarte at the University of Western Australia, is also sounding the alarm that we are nightmarish-ly close to destroying the wold’s remaining ocean fish populations. We are running out of time (but as promised by the class title, solutions are offered, some of which are fairly draconian but all of which have to happen now. I highly recommend the class if it is still open).
And after several visits in the pre-dawn hours to the Honolulu Fish Auction (where the fleet of long-liners sell their catch) I have learned that while the U.S. fisherman are highly regulated, others are not once they are outside of our territorial waters, causing economic hardship to local fishermen that eventually cascade into problems for whales and dolphins that are seen as competitors for the dwindling fish stocks of the more nearshore, smaller fish species.
Our taste for top ocean predators not only drives up the price, but as I have learned, has no equivalent among land animals in terms of the food chain – tuna and bill fish are at the same trophic level as a mythological land animal would be that ate another mythological animal that ate wolves! We have no idea at this point how these top fish predators control the marine environment, and as they become scarcer we look for smaller and smaller species – yet we really have no idea what that is doing to the ocean food web either. From Fisherman’s Voice, Honolulu:

Tuna being off-loaded.
Tuna being off-loaded.

Although the prime species at the auction is bigeye tuna, a lot of other fish come in. After the bigeye is sold, they move to skipjack tuna, albacore tuna and yellowfin tuna. Then the billfish: broadbill swordfish, shortbill spearfish and striped marlin; and the other open ocean fish like dolphinfish, wahoo, moonfish and bigscale pomfret. Some bottom fishermen, too, sell grouper, red snapper, crimson snapper, russet jobfish, yellowbar jobfish, yellowstriped snapper and lavender jobfish at the auction.
Outside, while the auction is going on, the captain of one boat watches as his 10 tons of bigeye tuna are offloaded–and sold nearly as fast they can reach the floor. The 100-foot vessel usually makes three-week voyages, going from 400 to 800 miles offshore. This trip, however, was cut short and his catch wasn’t what it could have been. But he says even his best catches are nothing next to the Japanese and European longliners, who have superior technology. “We’re just fishermen,” he says. “And right now this is one of our last open fisheries since Alaska went to ITQs. That doesn’t even seem legal,” he adds. With the cost of fuel and bait (he paid 22 dollars a case for frozen sardines), he says they’re not making much money, but the catch has been constant, so far.

Benefactors like DiCapro and our politicians need your support to overcome partisan and international conflicts, and helping the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is a good place to start.

NOAA is Changing its Guidelines on Permissible Sound Levels and Marine Mammals – You Are Important!

2013-12-23-Navysoundhawaiicropped.jpg

Navy sound levels measured in Hawaii.

This may be one of the most important issues you participate in for marine mammals and ocean life in 2014.  The outcome of NOAA’s guidelines will affect how much noise marine animals will have to face at the hands of industry and the military – without strong guidelines species we have yet to fully understand may be driven from their habitats, or worse, may suffer irreversible declines in population levels.
Naval sonar and oil exploration seismic surveys are known to cause the death and stranding of hundreds to thousands of marine mammals worldwide every year. (More information can be found here and here).
risso's dolphin strand philippines
The guideline “provides noise exposure levels for onset of permanent threshold shift (PTS) and temporary threshold shifts (TTS) for all sound sources and behavioral response zones for seismic surveys (e.g., primary sound source is airguns). It is intended to be used by NOAA analysts/managers and other relevant user groups/stakeholders, including other federal agencies to better predict a marine mammal’s response to sound exposure in a manner that has the potential to trigger certain requirements under one or more of NOAA’s statutes (e.g., MMPA, ESA, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act).” (NOAA)
Please mark these dates on your calendar if you wish to express your concerns to NOAA. December 27th is the first day of the comment period, which will extend for 30 days. A public meeting will be held in Silver Spring, Maryland on January 14th, also available through a webinar for those of us who can’t attend.

We are pleased to announce that a 30-day public comment period for this document will begin on December 27, 2013. In conjunction with this public comment period, we will host a public meeting on January 14, 2014 in Silver Spring, Maryland. For those unable to attend in person, webinar access will be provided. Please consult the following web site for more detailed information and updates after the New Year: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm
On December 27th electronic copies of the document can be found at the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov and via http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov, search for NOAA-NMFS-2013-0177).

NOAA’s Guidelines for Assessing Impacts of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammals
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is developing acoustic guidelines for assessing the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal species under our jurisdiction.
The document provides guidance for assessing the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal species under NOAA’s jurisdiction. Specifically, it provides noise exposure levels for onset of permanent threshold shift (PTS) and temporary threshold shifts (TTS) for all sound sources and behavioral response zones for seismic surveys (e.g., primary sound source is airguns). It is intended to be used by NOAA analysts/managers and other relevant user groups/stakeholders, including other federal agencies to better predict a marine mammal’s response to sound exposure in a manner that has the potential to trigger certain requirements under one or more of NOAA’s statutes (e.g., MMPA, ESA, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act).
To develop these noise exposure levels, NOAA evaluated currently available information on the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals, as well as developed a method for updating these levels through a systematic, transparent process. This document is intended to outline noise exposure levels, how they were developed, and how they will be reviewed and assessed as additional science becomes available.
Where are we in the Process?
The process to finalize the guidelines includes the following steps:
NOAA internal review
External peer review
Public comment
Finalize and release guidelines
NOAA’s draft Acoustic Guidelines has undergone an internal review within NOAA on the scientific/technical aspects of the document. NOAA is still working through issues relating to the implementation of the science under our various statutes.
The external peer review, which began in July 2013, focuses on the scientific and technical studies that have been applied. The reviewers will not focus on the implementation aspects of the document (e.g., the amount of uncertainty that is acceptable, the amount of precaution that should be embedded in the analysis).
After peer review, NOAA will seek public comment on the scientific and implementation aspects of the document. Once the peer review and public comments are addressed, NOAA will finalize and release the acoustic guidelines.

Fukushima Meltdown Has Not Polluted the Entire Pacific, No Need to Panic!

Ocean circulation doesn't work this way.
Ocean circulation doesn’t work this way.

From NOAA:

This image was created by NOAA’s Center for Tsunami Research and graphically shows maximum wave heights (in centimeters or cm) of the tsunami generated by the Japan earthquake on March 11, 2011. It does NOT represent levels of radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. For more information please visit the original image and background information at http://nctr.pmel.noaa.gov/honshu20110311.
Download here (Credit: NOAA)

This map of wave heights is circulating all over the internet along with panic and a sprinkling of facts (I added the text over this map, hoping that this version will help combat the fear mongering). But the reality is, even if there were radiation of this magnitude crossing the ocean, the map wouldn’t look anything like that – the ocean circulation is way more complex with masses of water spinning, sinking, stalled, or streaming like a river. Sometimes the ocean mixes up, and sometimes it doesn’t, with layers sitting on top of each other. Fresh water from rivers can go way out to sea, and wedges of salt water can travel up river.
The map below is also often misinterpreted – it is a projection of how the debris from the tsunami is expected to travel, assuming it stays in the main ocean surface currents – notice how it travels clockwise from the red, then back towards Asia (violet). If massive amounts of radiation were released into the surface and it floated along like old furniture etc,(which it doesn’t) this is the path it would be expected to take, not the plume pictured in the top map.  But radioactive particles behave differently depending on what they are. And for the most part the debris is not expected to be contaminated.

map_slideshow-450x256 debris

Does that mean we are all safe and can continue to live as though it is safe to eat anything in the ocean? Absolutely not, we have been dumping radiation into the environment for decades. Many species of fish travel this circle of ocean currents too, and will pick up increasing contamination with every swim by Japan. Little creatures that live in the ocean bottom near the reactor will stir up the sand and mud, and release some of the particles that are the worst, releasing those radioactive particles into the water and absorbing them at ever-increasing rates. Big fish eat little fish, and the problem escalates right up the food chain.
And for anyone who thinks it is a good idea to eat marine mammals of any kind, guess again – as top-level predators they will get the worst doses.
One more thing, it pays to check facts and listen to the authorities on this – in spite of political pressure, graft, influence peddling etc they are all we have to rely upon. If you are still worried, then make the decision not to eat sea food, or limit your intake.
 

Orca Calf Struggles with Plastic Bag in His Mouth – Another Warning On Plastics

Most of us are guilty of lugging our purchases home in plastic bags from time to time, but when we do we have to be meticulous in the disposal both the bags and the various plastic items we buy. Once these materials enter the ocean, the plastic materials wreak havoc on the marine life, eventually entering the food web  and working their way into the flesh of the fish we eat.
Because the bags float in a whimsical way with the currents, they make interesting, if deadly, playthings for dolphins.

Orca calf playing with a plastic bag . Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research.
Orca calf playing with a plastic bag . Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research.

From Ken Balcomb, senior research scientist at the Center for Whale Research:

Someone asked me not too long ago if we ever find garbage or plastic in killer whale stomachs, as is fond in some other cetacean species. I have never heard of it but this photo, taken by Dave a few weeks ago, suggests that it is possible that killer whales might ingest trash, or at least play with it. This is T37A3 spy hopping with a plastic bag in his mouth! dave thought it was a chunk of blubber at first but when he collected it after the calf dropped it he saw that it was really was. If there ever was a good argument for limiting your use of plastic bags this might be it! Good thing the calf didn’t swallow it, but who is to say that some don’t? We go to all kinds of trouble to keep harmful substances and objects away from our own kids (hopefully no one gives their kids plastic bags to play with!) we should do the same for our neighbors, the local killer whales:)

The following was taken in Hawaii, and is provided courtesy the Wild Dolphin Foundation:

Plastic Pollution Coalition created a temporary exhibit in Vancouver in 2010 to bring home the point that plastic in the ocean kills:

Display by the Plastic Coalition. Vancouver, 2010
Display by the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Vancouver, 2010

“Losing Nemo” – Will the World Oceans be Devoid of Fish by 2048? This Film Says Yes, Unless We Change Policies Soon

A European group, ‘The Black Fish‘, is working hard to get the message out about the state of the world’s fisheries, and their message is that without better oversight the economic gain of irresponsible fishing will drive fish stocks to extinction.  This Dutch group has been fundamental in the struggle to free the orca Morgan from captivity since her capture, but their main focus is on the fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea, where they say that fishing laws are flagrantly violated.
The Black Fish have now produced an interesting short animated film “Losing Nemo” in which the world’s future is portrayed as very grim – it shows that not just the loss of fish will occur, but along with it will go all the marine life that is dependent upon the fish. Below is “Losing Nemo”. The group provides links to support their claims, and these references are presented here as well.
It is not too late to turn this situation around, but it is going to require that we all do our bit. If you can do nothing else, please consume fish responsibly and consult NOAA’s FishWatch to find out what kinds of fish are considered good choices.

nature01610-f1.2 fish biomass world

FIGURE 1. Time trends of community biomass in oceanic (a–i) and shelf (j–m) ecosystems.

From the following article:

Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities
Ransom A. Myers and Boris Worm
Nature 423, 280-283(15 May 2003)
doi:10.1038/nature01610
Serious concerns have been raised about the ecological effects of industrialized fishing1, 2, 3, spurring a United Nations resolution on restoring fisheries and marine ecosystems to healthy levels4. However, a prerequisite for restoration is a general understanding of the composition and abundance of unexploited fish communities, relative to contemporary ones. We constructed trajectories of community biomass and composition of large predatory fishes in four continental shelf and nine oceanic systems, using all available data from the beginning of exploitation. Industrialized fisheries typically reduced community biomass by 80% within 15 years of exploitation. Compensatory increases in fast-growing species were observed, but often reversed within a decade. Using a meta-analytic approach, we estimate that large predatory fish biomass today is only about 10% of pre-industrial levels. We conclude that declines of large predators in coastal regions5 have extended throughout the global ocean, with potentially serious consequences for ecosystems5, 6,7. Our analysis suggests that management based on recent data alone may be misleading, and provides minimum estimates for unexploited communities, which could serve as the ‘missing baseline’8 needed for future restoration efforts.
 

Defining and estimating global marine fisheries bycatch

Abstract
Unselective fishing catches non-target organisms as ‘bycatch’—an issue of critical ocean conservation and resource management concern. However, the situation is confused because perceptions of target and non target catch vary widely, impeding efforts to estimate bycatch globally. To remedy this, the term needs to be redefined as a consistent definition that establishes what should be considered bycatch. A new definition is put forward as: ‘bycatch is catch that is either unused or unmanaged’. Applying this definition to global marine fisheries data conservatively indicates that bycatch represents 40.4 percent of global marine catches, exposing systemic gaps in fisheries policy and management.
Reference: DAVIES RWD, et al. Defining and estimating global marine fisheries bycatch. Marine Policy (2009), doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2009.01.003.
Science 3 November 2006:
Vol. 314 no. 5800 pp. 787-790
DOI: 10.1126/science.1132294

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE

Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services

Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences. We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales. Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. Restoration of biodiversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average. We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

Thousands of Whales and Dolphins at Risk: Actor Ted Danson Petitions Government to Halt Deadly Seismic Testing in the Gulf

An easy thing to do for Earth Day 2013 – please sign Ted’s petition, and take a few minutes to see how this actor is using his resources to make a difference. Because this petition is directly to the White House, if enough signatures are collected in a 30 day period the government will have to give full consideration to the issues, and will have weigh whether or not industry should be allowed to deafen and destroy ocean life in its quest for oil.

Ted Danson
Ted Danson, actor

ted-danson
…and environmentalist.

“To most, Ted Danson is known for TV and movie acting roles, but for those in the conservation movement, he is much more famous for his work as a passionate ocean advocate and Oceana spokesman.”
The Petition:  “We petition the obama administration to:
Stop seismic airgun testing for oil and gas off the U.S. East Coast.
According to your Department of the Interior, seismic airgun testing for oil and gas in the Atlantic will injure or kill 138,500 dolphins and whales, including endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Seismic airguns and offshore drilling threaten commercial and recreational fisheries as well as ocean-based tourism and coastal recreation from Delaware to Florida. 730,000 jobs in this region depend on a healthy ocean. Seismic airgun testing is the first step toward expanding deepwater drilling, the same practice that caused the well-known Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous, and seismic airguns are an insult to ocean economies and ecosystems. With respect, we call on your administration to reject seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic.”  PLEASE SIGN.

Oceana, founded in 2001, is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Our offices in North America, South America and Europe work together on a limited number of strategic, directed campaigns to achieve measurable outcomes that will help return our oceans to former levels of abundance. We believe in the importance of science in identifying problems and solutions. Our scientists work closely with our teams of economists, lawyers and advocates to achieve tangible results for the oceans.”

Leonardo DiCaprio Is Drawing Attention to the Antarctic Marine Sanctuary

I’m writing to ask for your help. In days, governments could turn stretches of the Antarctic ocean into the world’s largest marine sanctuary, saving thousands of majestic polar species from the threat of industrial fishing fleets. But a small group of countries could drown the deal unless we act now:
Most countries support the sanctuary, but Russia, South Korea and a few others are threatening to vote it down so they can plunder these seas now that others have been fished to death. This week, a small group of negotiators will meet behind closed doors to make a decision. A massive people-powered surge could break open the talks, isolate those attempting to block the sanctuary, and secure a deal to protect over 6 million square kilometers of the precious Antarctic ocean.
The whales and penguins can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to defend them. Let’s change negotiators’ minds with a massive wave of public pressure — Avaaz will surround the meeting with hard-hitting ads, and together we’ll deliver our message to delegates via a deafening cry on social networks. Sign this urgent petition and share it with everyone you know:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_southern_ocean_5/?bxeVScb&v=18908
More than 10,000 species call these remote Antarctic waters their home, including blue whales, leopard seals, and emperor penguins, and many are found nowhere else on Earth. Climate change has already taken a cruel toll on their fragile habitat, but they will come under further threat from the industrial fishing fleet’s mile-long nets cast over these precious waters. Only a marine sanctuary will increase their odds for survival.
The 25-member governing body that regulates the Antarctic oceans has already committed to creating these marine protected areas. But the two plans being negotiated — one to protect part of the fragile Ross Sea and one for East Antarctica — are at risk of dilution or delay. Shockingly, the talks have been off the media’s radar and countries like Russia and South Korea are betting their opposition will go unnoticed, but if we cast a public spotlight on the talks we can force them to back off, and encourage champions like the US and EU to push for even stronger protections.
The Avaaz community has come together time and time again to protect our oceans. We’ve already helped win two of the largest marine reserves in the world. But the threats to our oceans continue, and one by one species are coming closer to the brink. Join me in saving the Antarctic ocean before it’s too late.
With hope,
Leonardo DiCaprio, with the Avaaz team
MORE INFORMATION
Protect Antarctic waters before it’s too late, says environment coalition (The Guardian)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/22/protect-antarctic-waters
Alliance Seeks Vast Marine Reserves in Antarctic (New York Times)
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/alliance-seeks-vast-marine-reserves-in-antarctic/
Milestone discussions on marine protected areas in Antarctica scheduled for CCAMLR’s 31st annual meetings in Hobart (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources)
http://www.ccamlr.org/en/news/2012/milestone-discussions-marine-protected-areas-antarctica-scheduled-ccamlr%E2%80%99s-31st-annual
Antarctic oceans are under threat (Antarctic Ocean Alliance)
http://antarcticocean.org/whats-at-stake.php
Antarctic seas in the balance (Nature)
http://www.nature.com/news/antarctic-seas-in-the-balance-1.11600

Endangered orcas’ habitat scheduled for seismic tests on June 11th, 2012

Update 6/12/12 11:45 a.m. The research vessel, R/V Marcus G Lagseth, is still docked in Astoria, Oregon.
Whether through bureaucratic bumbling by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or through intentional slight of hand, permission was granted for three sonically invasive explorations of the ocean floor in the waters off the Washington coast – prime habitat for the endangered Southern Resident orcas – without the proper notification to local agencies.
Even though Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory sent in their application for “Incidental Harassment Authorization to take marine mammals” last January, the permit was granted at the end of April with a 30 day comment period – but no notice was sent, other than in the Federal Register.
Now, with just days to prevent this, scientists and advocates are scrambling to block the seismic exploration before the orcas (along with nearly two dozen other species of whales and dolphins) are exposed to sound levels believed to have caused the mass death of thousands of dolphins in Peru.

Debating the danger of loud sonar to cetaceans involves the complex nature of sound in the water as well as our dismal lack of understanding of the behavior of most wild cetaceans…but what everybody agrees upon is that even if the sound itself doesn’t kill the whales and dolphins, they may react by racing to the surface to escape the sound, destroying their body tissues and damaging their hearing when gas bubbles form.
Below is a graphic that illustrates how sonar is used to penetrate the ocean floor – whether looking for oil reserves as in the case of the Peruvian dolphins, or investigating the nature of an earthquake fault as in this proposed study, the process is similar.

How the seismic exploration works.

Columbia University divided their survey into three parts, requesting harassment permits for each part – so they are actually exposing three times the number of animals to the sound, when the three surveys are combined:
Proposed survey area for the seismic survey in the northeastern Pacific Ocean planned for 5–8 July 2012 with OBS instrument. Notice the proposed trackline along the edge of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (light blue area).

Proposed-survey-area-for-the-seismic-survey-in-the-northeastern-Pacific-Ocean-planned-for-12–23-July-2012-with-seismic-tracklines..png

Proposed-survey-area-for-the-seismic-survey-in-the-northeastern-Pacific-Ocean-planned-for-11-June–5-July-2012-with-OBS-instrument.png

”]
Why this type of sonar is deadly:
Hardy Jones and Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos found evidence of damage in samples from some of the 615 dead dolphins in Peru (part of the thousands that died following seismic tests for oil):
a. Bleeding in the middle ear.
b. Simple fracture and cracks in the middle ear (periotic) bones.
c. Hemorrhage and bubbles in mandibular fat (where dolphins perceive incoming sounds)
d. Massive invasion of air bubbles which displaced the normal tissue of vital organs such as lungs, liver, kidney, bladder and blood vessels.
e. Pulmonary emphysema: air bubbles, bleeding and massive destruction of lung tissue
Gas bubbles in the liver of a Peruvian dolphin killed by seismic testing (Hardy Jones).

The endangered Southern Resident orcas can’t take much more loss, please help stop the testing until a more thorough environmental impact statement is prepared (the current one lumps all ecotypes of orcas together) and until the process is openly scrutinized.
What you can do: call your congress members, call NOAA, and spread the word through social media.
References:
Application for permit
Federal Register notice
Blue Voice (Hardy Jones)
Victoria (L - 112) with her mom.