Blog: Oil and Gas Sonic Cannons Murder Millions of Sea Creatures

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Dolphin in the wild

Millions of Americans are furious because the rights to the Western Atlantic Ocean have been handed over to Big Oil.

On July 16, the Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Millions of sea creatures will be senselessly killed by incessant sonic booms along the eastern U.S. seaboard as Big Oil scavenges for more heat-trapping gases. 

Sonic booms from multi-beam echosounder systems are known to cause mass strandings of cetaceans (whales and dolphins).

In 2008, ExxonMobil Exploration and its partner used sonic cannons whilst fossicking for gas offshore northwest Madagascar. They caused 100 melon-headed whales to mass strand. Those hideous sonic booms shattered their eardrums. 

In the spring of 2012, over 900 long-beaked common dolphins and black porpoises washed up in a mass mortality event on Peruvian shores. Government officials who stated that the dolphins died of natural causes (i.e. morbillivirus) did not convince my colleagues and me.

The conservation group Orca Peru undertook 30 necropsies from three separate expeditions. What they discovered was indeed disturbing and contrary to the Peruvian Production Minister Gladys Triveno’s claim on Radio Programas del Peru that “the death of the dolphins was not caused by any human activity.”

Off the coast of Peru, oil production from BPZ Energy’s Corvina and Albacora field, in fact, conducted a series of powerful seismic tests during the first half of 2012. 

Orca Peru scientists found that the dolphins and porpoises they examined exhibited bleeding in their middle ears as well as fractured skulls. In addition, lungs, livers, stomachs, bladders, skin, spleens and blubber all displayed gas bubbles. Those bubbles caused a mass destruction of tissues. In scientific parlance they revealed acute pulmonary emphysema, or what scuba divers know and fear as decompression sickness, also called the bends. There was no evidence whatsoever of morbillivirus in any of the 30 necropsies.

This deranged ecocide along the U.S. eastern seaboard risks killing the last 400 North Atlantic Right whales.

Every 10 seconds, non-stop, for a couple months, sonic explosions at 252 decibels will shatter eardrums of all sea creatures. 

Each month, the equivalent of 241,920 grenades will carpet-bomb the Western Atlantic Ocean, minus any shrapnel. 

Whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and critically endangered western Atlantic bluefin tunas will die from excruciating pain. 

It is infuriating and heartbreaking that the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management predicts the collateral deaths (and/or harm) of millions of sea creatures as an incidental outcome. Instead, their policy favors heating up the planet and in the process destroying many more forms of life.

It’s time to end the ‘War Against Nature‘ and protect the Atlantic, not plunder it. 

Please, sign the Surfrider Foundation petition. Together let’s ‘Save the Atlantic Ocean!’

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster and biologist at MUSE School. His forthcoming book is entitled ‘Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.’