Dr. Lindy Weilgart’s statement
Press conference: Green Party of Canada, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition
August 1, 2012
Seismic airgun surveys are loud enough to penetrate hundreds of kilometers into the ocean floor, the Earth’s crust, even after going through thousands of meters of ocean. They raise background noise 1,000-fold over areas the size of New Brunswick. Even 4,000 km away, they are the loudest part of background noise. It is therefore unsurprising that marine animals, who are almost all sensitive to sound, are highly impacted by such noise. Whales clear out of important areas, stop singing or calling (their way to find mates), shift their migration routes, and even strand and die, often bleeding from their eyes. Dolphins can go rigid and catatonic and drown in the wake of seismic surveys. Hearing cells in fish are ripped apart, deafening them, catch rates plummet, and fish clear out of the area. Squid suffer damage so severe their organs are unrecognizable, and snow crabs show organ abnormalities. Regarding environmental assessments, there is growing recognition in the scientific community that these should be as broad in area and scope as possible, encompassing whole ecosystems, rather than piecemeal, taking full account of the cumulative and synergistic effects of all the stressors faced by marine life, such as ocean acidification, climate change, toxins, hypoxic ‘dead’ zones, along with noise–all of which are already present in the Gulf. To carry out these destructive seismic surveys in as productive and biologically rich an area as the Gulf is madness. This is nothing short of an acoustic assault on this sensitive ecosystem.
Dr. Lindy Weilgart, a research associate in Biology at Dalhousie, has studied whale sounds and communication for 30 years. She has been very involved in the underwater noise issue for 20 years, serving on numerous expert panels and committees, advising both internationally (UN, NATO, European Commission) and nationally (Canada, U.S., German governments, among others). She has organized several scientific workshops and given many lectures on this topic, and published numerous peer-reviewed papers.