Tag Archives: seismic survey

Oil Company Detonates C4 in Dolphin, Manatee, and Turtle Habitat – Shrimpers Are Outraged

  • Explosive blasts by Castex Energy will go on for a year in the shallow coastal region in near-shore Louisiana.
  • Dolphins were not part of the state permit review process, Castex spokesman claims that they are unaware of the requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
  • Endangered sea turtles are  protected by federal law in the water but Louisiana passed a law that limits their ability to check boats.
  • Louisiana Department of Fish and Game refuses to disclose what endangered species, such as manatees, may be affected by the seismic blasts.
  • Shrimp fishermen are being chased off, and there is fear that the shrimp will move into deep water to avoid the blasts.
  • Yet the state requires the seismic testing to stop during recreational duck hunting season.


Endangered manatees are known to swim in the area.
Endangered manatees are known to swim in the area.

The state of Louisiana appears to have put the interests of recreational duck hunting ahead of the welfare of endangered species or the economic need of shrimpers, and have granted the Castex Energy company permission to assault a 435 square mile region of shallow coastal water with explosive seismic tests.
Except, that is, during duck hunting season.
According to an article in the Tri-parish Times:

The exploration firm, Houston-based Castex Energy, says it has done all that is required and more before commencing their 400-plus square mile, $50 million project, which requires detonation of C-4 and other explosives beneath state waters.
Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Bo Boehringer, when asked for specifics, said dolphins and sea turtles were not included in the survey his agency did in regard to the Castex project.
“Since … dolphins are not threatened or endangered species, they are not in the Natural Heritage section inventory and thus not a species which was part of the permit review process for the currently permitted area where seismic work is now ongoing,” he said.
“Relative to sea turtles, which are endangered and can be found along the Louisiana coast, their presence is tracked in the Natural Heritage section inventory by nesting sites. There are no sea turtle nesting sites in the Natural Heritage section inventory within the area currently permitted.”
The sea turtles are enigmatic. They – like the dolphins – are subject to myriad protections in the federal water. But for the three-mile stretch of water between Louisiana’s coast and the open sea, protections are not in place. As Boehringer mentioned, nesting turtles are protected but are not believed to be in the blasting area. No provisions are made for those who might be out for an afternoon swim.*

* Correction 8/31 from:

Carole H. Allen, Gulf Office Director
Sea Turtle Restoration Project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network (www.seaturtles.org)
And HEART (Help Endangered Animals-Ridley Turtles)

Sea turtles are endangered in all coastal waters, the Gulf of Mexico, etc.  Federal law enforcement can go into Louisiana’s waters to enforce the Endangered Species Act at any time.  The state of Louisiana passed a state law in 1987 preventing their state law enforcement officers from boarding boats to check for Turtle Excluder Devices.  We are  working to overturn this law.  Shrimp caught in their state waters is red-listed because of this antiquated law and their not protecting sea turtles.

There is no mention of the endangered manatees, or any other endangered/threatened species because apparently they don’t want people to find out:

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) officials said the list of endangered species in the report concerning the blasting is not public record, because of concerns that people will seek them out.”

The federal Fish and Wildlife Service does list the endangered species in that area (St. Mary parish, and Terrebone parish), which include manatees, sturgeons, and all five species of sea turles (green, hawksbill, Kemp’s, leatherback, and loggerhead).
17-slow-baby-sea-turtle naidzgraphics.net
As for the Atlantic bottle nose dolphins, whose prime habitat is the near-shore environment, they are not an endangered species, however they are federally protected everywhere (including in state water), and the population along the Gulf coast in that region has been severely affected by the BP deep water oil spill and countless other smaller spills.
Apparently the National Marine Fisheries Service is unable to step in, even though permits are required for blasting anytime marine mammals might be affected:

The dolphin issue in the long run may not sit well with federal officials, who have confirmed that the Marine Mammal Protection Act requires blasters to obtain a letter of authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
No such letter has been obtained for the Castex project.
NMFS can take no action if such a letter has not been obtained, unless a problem emerges. Should dolphins turn up stranded or otherwise injured in relation to the blasting, civil and criminal penalties may be assessed against the permit-holder if the authorization was not obtained, confirms Connie Barclay, a NMFS spokeswoman
Pete Addison, a Castex vice president…said that because the project is so big and will go on for so long – it is expected to last a year – that “there can be no stopping and starting.”
Use of the explosives is tried and true, Addison said. Worke rs drill 150 feet down below the mud line and insert a charge.

An article in Houma Today explains how unhappy the shrimpers are.

Seismic monitoring involves sound detection devices known as geophones being buried into the water beds. Those devices detect energy created by strategically placed explosives. Surveyors will be able to use the data to map the subsurface in search of oil and gas deposits.
“If you put this out and you are going to mess up a man’s paycheck, make damn good and sure that you work with the industry,” said Kim Chauvin, who owns three Terrebonne seafood businesses with her husband, David. “They didn’t even try to talk to this industry.”
Locals have complained the work will interfere with the industry’s most lucrative season, which is underway. They also complain of being left out when the project was under consideration by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Chauvin said she’s heard of shrimpers being run out of the area and others being allowed to trawl in the project footprint. “I’m sick of the shrimping industry paying for what the oil industry has to do. I do realize we have to work together in some things. But this is not someone willing to work with the shrimp industry,” Chauvin said.
Rep. Gordon Dove Jr. (R-Houma) expressed surprise that as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee that he was just now learning of the project.

The shrimpers also noted that the shrimp may move, and also that the shrimpers themselves may get the blame for any destruction of endangered species since their trawls have had a significant impact on the turtle populations in the past.
Shrimp trawling is by its nature destructive to the sea floor, and between the seismic blasts and the effects of the nets being dragged anywhere that the seismic cables are not present, the ocean life in that area is bound to be affected. Neither the state nor federal governments are willing to do anything about it.
This situation is only going to be repeated everywhere it is permitted, as the demand by oil companies grows…except during hunting season. I wonder if we can expect this along the Eastern seaboard now that the oil companies have been granted permission to conduct seismic surveys there too.
This scene from Forrest Gump takes place when the Gulf seemed a bountiful source of clean, accessible seafood, before the relentless push for oil created a situation in which the shrimpers are unable to operate.

More seismic tests in whale habitat to proceed – cautiously

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) just announced that the first of three planned acoustic surveys is nearly complete without incident, and that the second survey will proceed, with modifications:

Marine Survey
Here’s an update on the Marine Geophysical Survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth in the north Pacific this summer.

The initial offshore leg of the survey is near completion and monitors have not seen any killer whales. NOAA has issued an incidental harassment authorization for a second portion of this survey off the coast of Oregon. This portion will last two days. Conditions of the authorization include monitoring and mitigation measures to protect marine mammals in the survey area, including a requirement to shut-down if any killer whales are sighted or detected acoustically at any distance.
Consultation under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act for one remaining portion of the survey that could overlap with Southern Residents is still underway.

We’re coordinating with NOAA Fisheries Headquarters staff members, who are conducting the consultation and issuing permits, along with the action proponents, to evaluate the proposed activities and information on marine species in the region, including Southern Resident killer whales. NOAA staff members are working closely with the action proponents and have made progress in developing appropriate and necessary monitoring and mitigation measures, including an additional monitoring vessel with observers and incorporating real-time sighting data.

The project team will continue to coordinate with local research groups (i.e., Cascadia and Oregon State University) and sighting networks  [ ] to inform this process.

Check our headquarters web page for more information on the project at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. Scroll down to see documents posted under “2012 L-DEO Seismic Survey in the Northeast Pacific Ocean.”