New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

Marine conservation advocates say new seismic airgun blasting in the Arctic Ocean threatens whales and other marine life. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Seismic blasting east of Greenland raises concerns about impacts to marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska isn’t the only area increasingly at risk from oil and gas exploitation. Oil companies are exploring the seabed off the eastern coast of Greenland, and the seismic blasting is likely harm whales and other marine life.

Oil companies use seismic equipment to map underground oil and gas reserves with airguns that emit 259 decibel blasts, a sound intensity would be perceived by humans as approximately eight times louder than a jet engine taking off.

In a new report, scientists with Marine Conservation Research said the huge amount of blasting planned in the region is alarming, and presents a threat to marine life.

”It is clear that noise from seismic activity has an impact on whales as it can damage their hearing, ability to communicate and also displace animals, affecting diving behavior, feeding and migration patterns,” said Dr. Oliver Boisseau. “There are increasing indications that this could cause serious injury, and may also disrupt reproductive success and increase the risk of strandings and ice entrapments,” Boisseau said.

Global oil companies including BP, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell all own drilling rights in the Greenland Sea and are the likely customers for the data uncovered by the seismic testing company, Colorado-based TGS Nopec.

A Greenpeace ship is currently on its way to the area to document the seismic testing fleet, which plans to complete 7,000km of ‘survey lines’ of the seabed in the high Arctic, between 75 and 80 degrees north.

“Seismic blasting in icy waters is just one of the horrific practices the oil industry is doing in the Arctic, firing airguns into this important and beautiful ocean,” said Greenpeace campaigner Sune Scheller, currently onboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.

“Shell and other oil companies are hoping the world won’t know that seismic blasting exisst, even less notice the danger it poses to endangered whales and other marine life, but we’re here to expose this madness and keep eyes and ears on a harmful operation.”

The seismic operation will take place adjacent to ‘closed areas’ and overlaps with ‘areas of concern’ appointed by the Greenlandic authorities, designated for the protection of narwhal, walrus and a critically endangered population of bowhead whales.

”It is alarming to consider the vast amount of seismic activity being planned and conducted in the High Arctic, given the fragile nature of the ecosystem and the potential for disturbance and harm to whales,” Boisseau said. “It seems justified to urge for extreme caution given both the lack of data and the limited understanding of the short and long term impact of seismic noise on sensitive Arctic species, especially the narwhal.”


One thought on “New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

  1. I have a friend who does this. In the North Sea & thereabouts there is at all times a Fisheries Protection officer on the bridge with authority to stop the blasting if whales & the like are nearby.

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