Offshore testing not the danger to sea life many claim

April 14, 2015

Myrtle Beach Online

Seismic testing isn't as dangerous for marine life as some fear, according to a University of South Carolina professor.

Seismic testing off the Atlantic coast, a critical step in opening the waters off the Carolinas and Virginia to oil drilling, isn’t as dangerous for marine life, such as this North Atlantic right whale, as some fear, according to a University of South Carolina professor.

Much has been written in recent years about the prospect of conducting marine seismic surveys in the waters off the Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately, some of that information is either at odds with published scientific data on marine mammals or neglects the experience from decades of marine seismic operations both here in the U.S. and worldwide.

The information provided by the opponents of marine seismic surveys regretfully is misleading to the public and requires analysis based on scientific studies.

Seismic surveying is not new to the Atlantic offshore. From the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, more than 240,000 line miles of 2D seismic reflection profiles were acquired from New England to the Florida Keys. A small 3D survey was also acquired in 1982; however, this technology was in the very earliest stages of this now-standard technique. While much of these data were collected in support of a previous stage of oil and gas exploration on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) from 1978-1984, numerous surveys were conducted for research purposes by the U.S. Geological Survey or through projects funded by our National Science Foundation in the public interest.

Only six months ago, 3,000 line miles of new seismic reflection profiles were acquired for scientific purposes off the coast of North Carolina. Using an airgun source (the more appropriate term for “sonic cannons”) larger than that for the proposed new commercial surveys, these data are now being evaluated to provide fundamental new insights on geologic evolution of the Atlantic basin and development of the North American continent.

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