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 This means comprehensive estimates about our energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf are extremely outdated.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.