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Seismic Surveys are Safe and Important Research Methods

February 2, 2019 - 7:30am

Seismic surveying has dominated both the headlines and opinion pages in the last few years. You might think this research technique is new, given all the recent fanfare, but the process has actually been occurring in American waters for almost a century. Seismic surveys are used for a number of reasons, including to help identify potential energy resources in the ocean, and the process is fairly simple and safe – contrary to what you may read in the media.

Heavily regulated and conducted by skilled scientists, seismic surveying is performed by researchers on a boat, not an oil rig. During a seismic survey, sound pulses are directed toward the ocean floor, and the reflected waves are measured and used to generate 3-D maps of the rock layers beneath the ocean floor. Before the process begins, mitigation procedures are employed to ensure nearby marine mammals can move safely away from the seismic operation. Seismic surveying does not start until surroundings are clear of marine mammals. If an animal does enter the zone, the survey stops immediately.

Sound generated by a seismic survey has not been shown to cause a single reported death to marine mammals. To say otherwise is irresponsible reporting. Even the Obama administration published a report stating that seismic surveying is not harmful to marine life. A vast majority of Americans, myself included, care deeply about animals and would not want to do anything to put a creature in harm’s way. We are fortunate to live in a society where technological advances and state-of-the-art equipment allow scientists to conduct seismic surveys and protect marine life at the same time.

All facts aside, there are also many misconceptions about the purpose of seismic surveying. Despite claims from opponents, seismic surveying does not necessarily lead to offshore energy development. The main reason scientists use seismic surveys is to understand what potential resources might be available under the ocean floor. After all, it is in the best interest of all Americans to know what energy opportunities could exist and where.

Unfortunately, the data we have about offshore energy resources in the Atlantic is over 30 years old. This means comprehensive estimates about our energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf are extremely outdated. With science and technology advancing more every day, it is imperative to update this information – and there is no better time to do so.

In addition to providing updated information for the energy industry and the federal government, who also gets a copy of the data, seismic surveying has important implications for our country’s national security, as well. There is a direct correlation between America’s energy security and the overall security of our nation. By ensuring our domestic energy supply remains strong and stable, we can avoid relying on war-torn or hostile foreign countries for our energy needs.

As a Navy veteran, I know how important a strong and secure military is to our nation. Fortunately, offshore military operations and training can and do coexist with seismic surveys. Both industries are more than capable of working together, and already do in many areas, to ensure scientific data gathering does not interfere with our military. After all, both ultimately help us achieve the same goal – a secure and stable nation.

It’s long overdue to update the estimates of our offshore energy resources. Seismic surveys are a proven and safe way to do so. I encourage Floridians to support new permits and to consider encouraging lawmakers to do the same.

C.S. Bennett is a published author and Navy veteran who resides in Interlachen.


OK, everybody . . . . . . we have a number of statements in this article and below in comments such as "a seismic survey has not been shown to cause a single reported death to marine mammals" and "no evidence that sound from seismic surveys has had any significant impact on any marine creature populations" . . . . . . well, let's just look at some of the observations that 75 marine scientists indicated in a letter to the President in 2015 --> "Airgun surveys have an enormous environmental footprint. For blue and other endangered great whales, for example, such surveys have been shown to disrupt activities essential to foraging and reproduction over vast ocean areas" . . . . . "The Interior Department itself has estimated that seismic exploration would disrupt vital marine mammal behavior more than 13 million times over the initial six-to-seven years, and there are good reasons to consider this number a significant underestimate." . . . . . "The impacts of airguns extend beyond marine mammals to all marine life. Many other marine animals respond to sound, and their ability to hear other animals and acoustic cues in their environment are critical to survival. Seismic surveys have been shown to displace commercial species of fish, with the effect in some fisheries of dramatically depressing catch rates. Airguns can also cause mortality in fish eggs and larvae, induce hearing loss and physiological stress, interfere with adult breeding calls, and degrade anti-predator response: raising concerns about potentially massive impacts on fish populations. In some species of invertebrates, such as scallops, airgun shots and other low-frequency noises have been shown to interfere with larval or embryonic development" . . . . . . "The Interior Department’s decision to authorize seismic surveys along the Atlantic coast is based on the premise that these activities would have only a negligible impact on marine species and populations. Our expert assessment is that the Department’s premise is not supported by the best available science. On the contrary, the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which only 500 remain." . . . . . . . . "Opening the U.S. east coast to seismic airgun exploration poses an unacceptable risk of serious harm to marine life at the species and population levels, the full extent of which will not be understood until long after the harm occurs. Mitigating such impacts requires a much better understanding of cumulative effects, which have not properly been assessed, as well as strict, highly precautionary limits on the amounts of annual and concurrent survey activities, which have not been prescribed. To proceed otherwise is simply not sustainable." . . . . . . . . . this from 75 marine scientists from a variety of institutions, including Cornell, Prescott Marine Lab, Duke, Texas A&M, Stanford, Virginia Commonwealth, FAU, Marine Mammal Center, Univ. of Aberdeen, East Carolina, North Carolina, Oregon State, Woods Hole, John Hopkins, Syracuse, Scottish Marine Institute, San Diego State, New England Aquarium, Stony Brook, Univ. Alaska, Dalhousie Univ, etc. . . . . . . . . . I think I'll side with listening to the concerns of my fellow marine scientists . . . . . . . . . . . . . if science is not sufficient, how about the Dec 2018 letter from 10 Atlantic state GOP & Democratic Governors to the Dept. of Interior objecting to this testing --> "As the governors of 10 states on the Atlantic seaboard, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to seismic airgun surveys and oil and gas drilling off our coasts. These activities pose an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to our coastal ecosystems and coastal economies." . . . . "The IHAs <incidental harassment authorizations> would allow five companies to conduct seismic airgun surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, despite peer-reviewed evidence portending significant harmful impacts to marine mammals and fisheries, including endangered species.Seismic airgun surveying can cause acute, cumulative, and chronic negative impacts on the ability of marine mammals to send and receive signals that are essential for feeding, reproduction, raising offspring,and navigation.The repeated, loud noises from airgun blasts also risk diminishing essential fish stocks for commercial and recreational fishing communities in our states." . . . . . "The seismic survey restrictions in the IHAs do not ensure that such activities will have a negligible impact on affected species.These restrictions, for example, fail to account for the ability of seismic airgun pulses to travel over long distances, the correct exposure thresholds for changes in species behavior, and the cumulative impacts of conducting multiple seismic airgun surveying operations at once. As a result, conducting seismic surveys under these authorizations can lead to mortality and permanent injury of fish and marine mammals, including endangered species such as the North Atlantic right whale." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . so why is this trying to be done against such opposition . . . . . for the same reason that Trump denies climate change . . . . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . .

If they're testing in the course of oil exploration ... fugeddaboudit!

Simplistic truth... Since no drilling will be tolerated by a majority of Floridians, testing is neither necessary or wanted. Considering that many Marine Mammals use sound, sonar, loud noise is at least a risk, at worst, damaging. Stop the propaganda...

Dean, see my response to Jerry below. Also, regardless of whether drilling will ultimately be tolerated by Floridians, high-quality 3D seismic images of the ocean bottom and subsurface can provide a great deal of valuable information that is useful to other industries from shipping to archeology to pipeline to fiber optic cable to climatology. The ocean bottom and near-ocean bottom can be hazardous environments. Having high quality images enables those other industries to avoid hazards and disasters.

Craig, thanks for the courtesy of a response. And you're right about the usefulness of sonar images. The major difference? Only the petrol chemicals businesses need deep, detailed images. For the vast majority, lower power surface and submersible sonar is sufficient to the need. Eliminating the possibility of damage to aquatic life. Neither you or those in the industry can be certain no damage is done. And, lack of certainty is a lack of proof, not proof of your declaration of no harm. You don't know what harm is done without real proof. Until then, I'm a hard NO.

Dean, I realize that in all likelihood I'm not going to be able to dislodge deep-seated & long-held beliefs however, given my background and firsthand experience with the subject matter, I feel compelled to point out that marine seismic acquisition has occurred for more than 50 years and extensive, peer-reviewed scientific research on its impact on marine mammals et al creatures has occurred during the past 15+ years. During that time there has been no evidence that sound from seismic surveys has had any significant impact on any marine creature populations. Additional information & details can be found via the following links:

Again, my sincere thanks for taking the time to answer me. I'll accept your explanation that no harm happens. I also believe that it's unnecessary. Nobody who cares about our beaches and tourism will ever allow drilling. It's just too dangerous, thus, no need for it. The only thing accomplished? Friction and argument. What ever is there, leave it there. Let our great grandchildren decide for themselves.

Outstanding & accurate article Mr. Bennett. Additional information about seismic data acquisition, operations & uses can be found via International Association of Geophysical Contractors (links below). As a retired geophysicist who spent a great deal of time during a 45 year career designing seismic surveys, overseeing their operations & data collection, computer processing the acquired data and then utilizing it to understand subsurface geology, I can attest to a number of key issues in your post: seismic operations are safe, high-standard policies & procedures are followed, certified marine mammal observers are an integral part of marine operations and existing seismic data along our Atlantic coast & eastern-most Gulf of Mexico are extremely old and, compared to today's modern HD3D seismic data, of poor quality. Acquiring new high-quality seismic data is vitally important if we are to compile an accurate inventory of our national resources.

If they are safe then why do they have to shoo marine mammals away?...……. And what about the fish they can't?...……. The ones they are planning to use are much more powerful than past ones and obviously you are biased...………….And again why? …………….. Big oil already has many 1,000s of proven leases they haven't used and many more they won't even bid on as they have too many anyway...………….. It is buggy whips in an era of clean low cost energy and EVs that actually will make money by renting out their battery packs with V2G in just 15 yrs...……………… I've been driving EVs and doing wind, tidal and now solar for 26, 35 and 5 yrs now respectively at a fraction off units costs...…..Soon everyone will...………… And how many pollution deaths and the $600B/yr in FF subsidues do you want to keep paying for them to poison us?...………… And how much land in Florida will go under salt water from burning FFs? ………….In the last 30 yrs I've watch 5k sq miles of Florida go under salt water and the next 30 yrs likely 15k sq miles will and that will be cities, etc...…………… Any true fiscal conservative that I am clearly knows making your own or utility clean power for less is about as fiscally conservative as you can get. Plus it creates 3x the jobs and 90% local...……...Sorry but you are just another paid or unpaid FF shill corporatist, nothing more and hardly conservative. .

I applaud the use of all fuels that are available to us in this nation. Unfortunately, even with the use of EVs, oil and gas are needed. Electricity is generated oftentimes from natural gas and when you look at the components of your EV, much of that is comprised from petroleum products. So, the larger issue is not just about replacing your car with an EV (which depends on petro) but about how to replace the more than 6,000 products made from oil and gas. Are you willing to give up your cellphones, laptops, medicine, medical equipment, safety gear, sports equipment, etc. Think about it. We must not be short-sighted...OIl and gas are so much more than what you put in your cars or how you heat your homes.

Sorry to say, but you're ill informed. The US and Canada both export oil, through the US ports, and the US exports natural gas. True, we also import oil. Why? Because American Refineries aren't, for the most part, set up to deal with the heavy crude from Canada, tar sands, and northern US. If our Refineries would re-tool we wouldn't need to import oil. It's a giant shell game. Nobody bothers to talk about it. We, the US, have the largest proven reserves in the world. We don't need offshore drilling and won't for decades

Jerry, as a general rule, marine mammals have to be "shooed" away because they like to interact with the boat and operations. Dolphins, especially, choose to swim along and in front of our boats. They were / are not bothered or detrimentally impacted by the "noise" or the equipment. Fish, too, would swim nearby and if / when the operations became a bother to them they would move elsewhere. You should realize that during operations, boat speeds are very slow and most, if not all, of the mammals of concern here can easily out-run the boat. Also realize that the strength of (any) seismic signal diminishes with distance away from its source. So, again, marine creatures can and do easily avoid loud noise by temporarily swimming away, either laterally or vertically, from the operational area. For more information see: It is not true that "big oil already has many 1,000s of proven leases they haven't used and many more .... ". If & when a lease is won via competitive bid, activities must take place within a specified period of time in order to retain the lease. If activities do not occur within the time allowed, those leases are lost (i.e. no longer valid) and no activity is allowed. You should also realize that there are numerous active natural oil & gas seeps in oceans around the world and rather than "pollute" they serve as food sources for specialized & adapted marine life. For more information see: FWIW, I consider myself a centrist / independent. While you may not fully appreciate or understand it, I and my colleagues also live & work where you do and, like you, also want a "clean" and safe environment. As for being an "unpaid FF shill corporatist", I humbly disagree. I am an experienced expert hoping to offer balance, perspective and information to this important discussion & issue.

More BS mostly. I dive a lot and that testing would serious hurt me........... And why do you think because it destroys life for only a few miles it is ok?...…Now do that how many times?……...If they hear it to move away too close, they are already damaged making that BS...……Let's put you 500 yards away underwater and see how you feel.........As far as leases you are right to a degree as Alaska got tried and told leases to drill or lose on proven tracks..……..So just why are they not drilling proven tracks in their 20 yr window?...………..In track 181 Big oil fought for off Florida's coast at the Alabama border yet haven't had much if any drilling in it. Why?...…....Since these will take decades to develop and the oil era coming to an end as even the oil majors admit in their massive selloff of reserves, what is the point?...........And why do you think you have the right to keep poisoning us and flooding our coastal cities many of which are already flooding at spring tides do to FFs caused CC?..............Again NO Atlantic state wants drilling offshore.... What about that don't you understand..........Please tell me the state that wants it?........Yet you want to defy them and likely ruin their tourist economies as eventually there will be another horizon fiasco, Why?..............There is nothing good about this and not wanted by all but a few in big oil and increasingly, not even them..........

I ditto C. Breeze. So sick of distracting subjects when we are in imminent danger of a massive invasion of illegals at our Southern Border. If I heard correctly a couple of nights ago on what is known as the "news", 1,500 illegals are slipping across our border into the U.S. PER DAY while the U.S. Congress stalls and stalls and stalls with their ridiculous cover that they are "negotiating" a bill that the Pres will sign so we can keep the government open. Balderdash! Stop pretending you are doing anything to help this President. Dems and RINOS, we are taking names. Those of you who hate this President so much you are willing to sacrifice this country's security and freedom rather than give this President what we all want and need will rue the day. You are so outed for what you are and what you are obviously isn't a person with morals, character or guts. We need LEADERS. Please wake up and do the right thing!!! GIVE US THE MONEY FOR THE WALL!!!

You mean ones like Chump that hires them? ;^)..…….On the wall see my other comment...………...And why do you like such a bald faced liar that most everything out of his mouth is a lie?...……….Or do you like being lied to?...…... Sad! .

Using the fact you are a navy veteran to post such propaganda is sad really and dishonoring other vets...……….. First off it has killed mammals as the power needed to probe 20k' down is huge...…….. And what they plan to use is even worse as far more powerful that in the past...…………… Next we are coming to the end of the oil era with too much supplies already that oil majors have sold off much of their reserves you fail to mention...… So much recent oil leases of proven resources have went with few to no bidders…...None of the Atlantic states wants oil drilling as such a danger to the coast, tourist industries that make far more money locally than oil who's money goes to international investors...……..I'm guessing you missed the 2 yrs of Florida's tourist season killed off by the Horizon oil fiasco you so clearly ignored.

Ok,..... but ONLY if it will keep ILLEGAL ALIEN INVADING "creatures" O-U-T of America..! {BUILD THE WALL ! ! !}

Our local admitted racist is at it again...…………. Of course no mention most of those coming from the southern border are North American Indians whom have more right to be here than any white man...………..And they are coming because the US let US corporations corrupt the region and neglect by the US making things so bad there they have to escape from gangs, government killing, raping, forcing the young into gangs, etc they have little choice...………Nor are they illegal as most want to come through the ports of entry legally but Chump is blocking them by limiting the number/day .........C also ignores most illegals come though airports and walls are easily breached, thus ineffective in most places...………..C also ignores President Chump hires them for cheap labor taking American jobs as well as h1B visas he somehow gets to take even more American jobs. …….What's up with that C?

Seismic surveying, in Florida, has also revealed idiocy in your "family tree" "Jerry", as well as nonprehensile thumbs. (To: "North American" Indians, south of the U.S. southern, border: STAY THERE !) [Is THAT "racist" "Jerry"?] {Land mines & machine gun emplacements: Might they be "the answer" "Jerry"?} "Government Photo Identification Cards" to catch the "sneaks" that are already here,... so we can throw them back over the WALL !... THAT'S "The Ticket"!.... eh, "Jerry"?

You are racist because a while back you forgot this wasn't one your other racist blogs you post to and ranted *** it and I called you on it...……Or you were drunk and didn't care...……….But you made no doubt what you are as do many of your posts if taken together.……... And why don't you mind Chump hiring illegals for decades if you are so against them? ……………. Or Chump bringing in cheap Polish waiters, etc foreign workers for his Florida resorts, etc ,saying there are no Floridians that want the job on the application that has to be sworn to get them?...………...Can you say racist hypocrite?

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