Monday, August 11, 2014

11/08/2014: Fears that whales may stop communicating

To the dismay of some who study whales, the Obama administration this month gave the go-ahead for oil and gas companies to seek permits to use seismic noise cannons to map the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast, to prepare for possible drilling after 2017.

Drilling companies already have carved up a target zone from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The permits will allow their ships to crisscross the area dragging an array of cannons that erupt with a shock wave of sound every 10 to 15 seconds. The sound travels to the seafloor, enters the substrate and bounces back to receivers on the ships.

From the seismic pattern of those bounces, geologists can make some good guesses about the location of gas and oil deposits under the ocean floor.

But some scientists believe the sonic booms will be a deafening cacophony to whales and dolphins and may prompt them to stop communicating with one another.

"This is going to add more noise to the already huge problem whales are dealing with—man-made noise in the ocean," said Sofie Van Parijs, who studies acoustics for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast Fisheries Science Center at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

"The long-term effects are not easily observed or clear," she said.

"They may not hear each other as well, find each other, find mates. Socializing, breeding, and foraging may be affected."

Read more HERE.

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