homepage logo

Speaker: Benefits of seismic blasting not worth the risks

By Staff | Jul 17, 2015

Imagine the Atlantic Ocean being a barren wasteland, without any marine life, thanks to humans using modern technology to search for oil.

That is a worst-case scenario presented by Erin Handy, climate and energy campaign director of Oceana, as she discussed seismic airgun blasting, fracking and oil exploration to those in attendance at the monthly North Fort Myers Civic Association meeting at the rec center on Tuesday.

Seismic airgun blasting is used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. Ships tow the airguns through the water, which shoot dynamite-like blasts of compressed air through the ocean and miles underneath the seafloor at about 250 decibels.

The sound waves travel back to the surface with information about the location. Ships will do this every 10 seconds, all day, all night, for weeks.

But the price may be stiff, Handy said, with the rewards not nearly worth the risks.

“For marine life, this could mean hearing loss and abandonment of its habitat, which for them is a death sentence. It also means disruption in feeding and mating,” Handy said. “Could anyone live a meaningful life if that was happening over your house?”

Also, Handy said, oil companies aren’t required to share the results with other oil companies or any government.

Seismic blasting is being considered from Delaware to Florida, but its impact could be felt throughout the entire East Coast, Handy said.

“The same circumstances would apply if this activity received permitting on the Gulf Coast,” Handy said.

Oceana believes oil and gas development could put at risk the 1.4 million jobs and the $95 billion in gross domestic product provided by the ocean in terms of tourism, fishing and recreation.

In Florida alone, it could impact 281,000 jobs and $36.6 billion in GDP just on the Atlantic side of the state.

It could also mean the extinction of the right whale, which uses much of the blasting area as their migration route.

The Department of the Interior has confirmed the impact of seismic blasting could result in the injury or death of 138,000 whales and dolphins and 13.5 million disturbances in vital behaviors, such as mating and feeding, and nesting of the loggerhead sea turtle.

Handy said the problem is they cannot link marine deaths to the seismic blasting.

“Many animals wash on shore and are not in condition to perform as necropsy on. The connection of airgun blasting the cause of death of the animal is difficult,” Handy said.

There may be some hope, Handy said, as many Florida counties and cities are against seismic blasting and oil and gas exploration in general, especially after the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana in 2010.

Gov. Rick Scott has asked President Barack Obama to delay approval of seismic blasting until more data is collected. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Kurt Clausen are moving bills to ban seismic testing off the coast.

Also, the fishing industry is firmly against the procedure.

“These groups don’t like anyone telling them what to do or what to catch, but are adamantly against seismic blasting,” Handy said.

And what would come out of the Atlantic? Andy said about two days worth of gasoline, which wouldn’t be extracted for nearly a decade, with no money coming back to the states.

As far as fracking, Ray Judah said cities like Bonita Springs are working hard to ban the practice which dissolves rock with acid as you drill.

That ban was approved on Wednesday.

“The issue isn’t just the drilling, it’s the fluids they use and how the dispose of it. They’re made up of carcigenetic particles,” Judah said. “This can contaminate the water we drink. We hope people will understand the impact this has on our water supply.”