Boom, Baby, Boom: The Environmental Impacts of Seismic Surveys

For offshore exploration, the oil and gas industry typically relies on arrays of airguns towed behind ships. Although most of the energy from these acoustic “shots” is intended to search downward for evidence of oil and gas deep beneath the seafloor, a significant amount of the energy travels outwards and can be heard throughout vast areas of the ocean. The environmental problems created by these noise invasions are not fully understood, but we do know that these intense sounds threaten the habitats of endangered whales and commercial fisheries. Seismic surveys have been shown to disrupt essential behavior in endangered whales and cause catch rates of some commercial fish to plummet. To mitigate these impacts, NRDC recommends that airguns be kept out of sensitive areas and that greener alternatives be promoted, some of which are already well into development and could be made commercially available within a few years.