And so it happened. Just as expected the Big Oil indeed becomes bolder and more aggressive and governments get more open to possibilities of allowing Big Oil basically everywhere, including sanctuaries. Recent reports indicate that NZ government allowed Big Oil to do their seismic surveys and to drill in marine sanctuaries.
The article itself is “read and weep” type of reading, but one phrase uttered by Petroleum Exploration and Production Association chief executive David Robinson is caught our attention:
“There is no evidence of adverse impacts from seismic surveying on marine mammals”
He is not the first one to express this opinion. Check any permit application for seismic surveys, you will see a phrase like this. Every press release from Big Oil in regard to strandings also as a phrase like this.
So, let’s examine it. Is this really true?
Contrarily to what the industry says we DO HAVE evidence that seismic surveys affect marine mammals and other marine life. For comprehensive and in depth review read this recent report by Convention on Biological Diversity. The effects are many and numerous ranging from behavioral to physiological. And surveys affect not just marine mammals but also fish, invertebrates and so on.
However for this blog we will focus on strandings and seismic surveys. These are documented cases (read more detailed description in our previous post):
5. Peru, 2012
Now, we do not have many documented cases and there are reasons for that:
#1. MASS AND SINGLE STRANDINGS ARE NOT INVESTIGATED AND NOBODY SEARCHES FOR EVIDENCE TO LINK BIG OIL TO STRANDINGS.
Because of the lack of data Big Oil has a nerve to say “There is no evidence of adverse impacts from seismic surveying on marine mammals”. But the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. We have limited data not because seismic surveys are harmless, but because nobody bothers to investigate strandings. For example, in 2010 Brazil saw insane number of live strandings. Did anybody bothered to test for embolism and other evidence? No. NZ gets tons of strandings and the only investigation they do (rarely) is taking tissue samples that are worthless for anything apart from genetic studies. USA strandings rescues and officials never link any strandings to Big Oil/Navy and never release necropsy results to the public and who knows what they test and not test for.
So basically, strandings are not linked to Big Oil (and Navy) because bodies are buried without extensive investigation.
#2. BIG OIL (AND NAVY) DO NOT DISCLOSE WHERE, WHEN AND WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING AND NOBODY ASKS THEM TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION PUBLICLY.
This is another issue. Somehow Big Oil and Navy became completely immune to any inquiries about their activities. They are given permits, but not required to stay transparent and disclose data about their activities. The only thing is required from them by officials is to issue press release with assurance that they are not responsible and everybody is happy and content with it. But what we need is not assurances, but hard data, such as:
1. Activities within 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 miles radius from stranding site
3. Exact schedule, i.e. when, hours, durations, day, night etc.
4. Schedule of airguns firing
5. Number of airguns
6. Number of vessels
7. Source Levels (intensity)
8. Logged species that have been observed in vicinity.
Does anybody request this type of data in regard to any stranding? No. Nobody bothers to ask.
What is truly puzzling is the fact that even though strandings are not investigated and no data is requested from Big Oil (and Navy) they are constantly given permits to use their horrid sound sources. And now they can do it in marine sanctuaries. In the ideal world both Navy and Big Oil sould be required to prove with 100% certainty that their activities DO NOT cause any harm to marine life. But alas our world is not ideal, and they use widespread ignorance and lack of data to continue their horrid deeds. After all if you (or anybody else for that matter) do not search for evidence it puts you in a perfect position to state that there is no evidence.
Final note. Rescues and scientists are partially to blame for this mess too. Everybody is trying to play nice, stay courteous and do not pick a fight with Big Oil/Navy. It is much easier to bury 100+ stranded pilots in NZ, than painstakingly investigate every body in search for evidence. But what responsibilities rescues have? They are given exclusive rights to respond and deal with strandings; if they do not investigate causes and question Big Oil/Navy, who would do it? Scientists also would rather go to these big shot conferences and mingle with Big Oil/Navy representatives than working on projects that can implicate these industries.
The bottom line: With such huge gaps in data, with strandings going down not-investigated and with Big Oil/Navy not being required to disclose data about their activities, it is irresponsible, wrong and insane to grant these permits, especially for sanctuaries and protected areas. This is insanity. Two recent examples: Peru die off and Black Sea die off. Try to find any data about seismic surveys, good luck with that.