More than 6260 people already sent an email protest to the Croatian government at www.silentoceans.com! Due to the great support from many of you, concerns raised over the seismic activities in Croatian waters are increasingly communicated by media in Croatia, such as the article below shows. We hope to stir up a debate within Croatia as well as internationally.
Article from Marina Kelava published at http://h-alter.org/vijesti/ekologija/utopljeni-u-buci Translation en English below:
Why did Ocean Care choose to start the campaign about air shooting in Adriatic in particular when this kind of technology is used in lots of other area as well, for e.g. Norway?
We launched our worldwide campaign „silent oceans“ in June. The aim of the campaign is of course to restore silence in the oceans. In the framework of this campaign we will tackle different underwater noise polluter. The first geographical focus is the Mediterranean Sea as this semi-enclosed sea with its remarkable variety of cetacean species is under heavy human pressure and seismic surveys are rather „booming“ in the area.
What kind of consequnces can we expect on marine life? Which adriatic species would be most affected?
Marine life is affected in many ways by noise. We made a detailed brochure on that called „Drowning in Sound“ that can be found on our web site. The Bottlenose dolphins are common in the Adriatic. There are some resident populations of the species. Furthermore, there has been an increase in sightings of the Mediterranean Monk Seal (a highly endangered species of marine mammals) in the area of the Lošinj Island and Vis Island. Also this species may be impacted by underwater noise. Additionally, a noise impact on the ecological important area of the Cres-Lošinj area which has been temporarily a marine protected area (and hopefully will be declared as permanent marine protected area in the future) may be possible.
“This approach is all the more disturbing as the Croatian government itself has been voting for the adoption of measures in various international fora to protect marine life from intense underwater noise. Now that it comes to own interests, no one seems to recall those measures”, you said. What internazional agreements do you feel croatia is breaking? Are there any possible consequences according to that agreements?
Croatian governmental representatives voted for mitigation measures with reference to underwater noise as contracting party of ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area; www.accobams.org) as well as of CMS (Convention on Migratory Species (www.cms.int). The ACCOBAMS Resolution 4.17 quite clearly encourages Parties to undertake EIAs prior to noise producing activities. As far as we know there was no appropriate public consultation and no proper environmental impact assessments has been undertaken prior to these hazardous and extremely rushed activities. As a member of ACCOBAMS Croatia should comply with decisions of this agreement, especially since the decisions within ACCOBAMS are being made by consensus. Unfortunatley there will not be any consequences for Croatia, because there are no means for enforcement and sanctions in place.
Seismic air shooting is not the only problem creating underwater noise. I listened to the underwater noise in Norway and it seemed to me that whales are foced to live in noise like they are living in the middle of highway in for e.g. New York. It was pretty disturbing. Since whales hear on huge distances, is there any hope at all that their quality of life will improve? What can be done to minimise the noise from sea traffic and other sources of noise?
You’re perfectly right. There are a variety of sources of underwater noise and the noise levels in the oceans have doubled every decade during the last 60 years in some areas. Sources of anthropogenic ocean noise include the use of explosives, oceanographic experiments, geophysical research, underwater construction, ship traffic, military active sonar, and air guns used for oil and gas exploration, as well as oil drilling and shipping activities. That’s exactly why OceanCare started the silent oceans campaign because we have to restore more silence again in the oceans in order to improve the quality of life for cetaceans and most other marine species. In this connection we developed a 10-step blueprint with measures to be applied. www.oceancare.org/en/silentoceans/tenstepblueprint/ These measures include that ocean noise pollution must be recognised as a serious problem by the UN General Assembly and all other relevant instutions, that seismic surveys for oil and gas deposits, and extraction itself, must be forbidden in sensitive habitats, that shipping must be required to develop quieter engines and improve ship design to reduce noise output, that navies should be required to train solely in so-called oceandeserts,far away from areas with a rich variety of marine species, etc.
„Up to now just close to 2% of the world’s oceans have been designated as protected areas. Further protected areas are urgently needed where they are important for marine mammals and the marine biodiversity“, is one of OceanCare goals. Do you think Adriatic sea should be one of this protected areas, what would that mean for everyday life on sea?
In the framework of ACCOBAMS several areas in the Mediterranean have been proposed as marine protected areas (MPAs) and these proposals have been adopted by the contracting parties. On a map of the proposed MPAs you can see, there has been a proposition for the MPA in the Cres-Lošinj area as mentioned above and the MPA was temporarily in place until recently but unfortunately it is not yet designated as permanent MPA.
Which activities are allowed in a MPA are defined by a Management Plan which is in general developed by experts who know the area and the species living in that area. Generally, harmful fishing practices such as bottom trawling, driftnets etc. are of course not allowed in a MPA. Furthermore, often seasonal fishing closures are defined in MPAs in order to allow the fish stocks to grow. Furthermore, vessel traffic should be regulated in a MPA.
MPA are not a solution for every area and for the the Adriatic (as well as for all other areas in general), we ask for compulsive environmental impact assessments before noise generating activities like seismic explorations or military sonar tests are set in place. Moreover, we ask for an implementation of marine vibroseis as an alternative method to seismic airguns for gas and oil exploration. The advantage of this method is that it generates 10 fold less noise as compared to airguns.
Do off shore windmills contribute to underwater noise as well?
Yes. Thereby mainly the construction phase of the windmills is a source of considerable underwater noise, especial the pile driving activties. That’s why an environmental impact assessment should be carried out before the construction of windmills.
Are there any countries that are actually doing something about underwater noise. Are there any positive examples?
We have just made progress in the US when a court settlement was reached with the oil industry over their planned seismic activities in the Gulf of Mexico. The settlement includes regional and seasonal exclusion zones, as well as pressure on the industry to engage in the development and employment of technology producing less intense emissions. Furthermore, there is a positive example in Brasil where a seasonal ban on seismic surveys was set in place in a humpback whale breeding area.
This month USA army is bringing dolphins trained to search for mines to Adriatic. What do you think about using dolphins in military purposes?
OceanCare does not support the captivity of dolphins because these animals can not be kept species-appropriate in captivity. Hence, we decline the use of dolphins for military purposes too. Furthermore, we are concerned about the fact that dolphins from the US are brought to the Adriatic in order to search for mines because the long transport and the new environment are all sources of additional stress. Additionally, there is concern by experts that apart from the risk of the introduction of foreign pathogens a cetancean species from another area with different genetics is introduced in the Adriatic given the risk that the species may escape and mix with bottlenose dolphins endemic to the Mediterranean and thus weakening the endemic genetic „footprint“.