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Quieter Oceans in the Atlantic: The Fight Against Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration

Source: The Atlantic/Ed Yong - July 17, 2017 in Politics

Quieter Oceans in the Atlantic: The Fight Against Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration
Photo: NOAA

Last night, to celebrate the fourth of July, the air over the U.S. filled with fireworks. The noise they created was extremely loud and, mercifully, brief. But imagine having to listen to even louder explosions once every ten seconds, for days or weeks on end. Starting this fall, that may be the new reality for whales, fish, and other marine life off the eastern seaboard, if the Trump administration’s plans go ahead.

Following the president’s executive order to open the Atlantic to offshore drilling, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is set to permit five companies to begin seismic airgun blasting—an old but controversial technique for detecting reserves of oil and gas. Ships will tow an array of 24 to 36 cannons behind them along with streamers of underwater microphones. The cannons create explosions by releasing pressurized gas, while the microphones detect the echoes of these detonations to pinpoint petroleum deposits beneath the ocean floor.

Each airgun produces up to 180 decibels of noise, making them around 1,000 times louder than nearby fireworks.

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