A recent study evaluating all available information on a 2008 mass stranding of about 100 Melon-headed whales in Madagascar shows that this tragedy was caused by intensive sound. This sound was emitted by an exploration vessel looking for oil on behalf of ExxonMobil.
Blog by Nicolas Entrup, Campaigner for OceanCare
These sonar systems are under criticism for many years. For as many years, the oil industry is asserting that there was no proof that underwater noise negatively or even lethally affects marine mammals or other marine wildlife. This stance was recently repeated in a letter to OceanCare and NRDC by the oil industry’s lobby group in Brussels. Now you might say “bad timing”, but in fact the results of this study don’t come to anyone’s surprise. The pressing question is: What are the consequences of these findings?
EU member states and the European Commission acknowledged underwater noise as a potential threat by including it in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Furthermore, there is a series of international resolutions, by which government officials themselves decide to make big efforts to take preventive action against noise threats and to take measures to ensure the protection of endangered species.
This sounds quite promising. If it wasn’t for this thing called “reality”.
In a recent answer to a written question by MEP Andrea Zanoni regarding the extent of the use of intensive sound for oil exploration in the Mediterranean, the European Commission had to pass. It does not have a comprehensive overview, stating that it was up to the Member States to “monitor” underwater noise in their waters. On the other hand, EU law is demanding for more than 20 years to protect all cetacean species from deliberate disturbance. But the European Commission is unable to react and to assess to what extent EU member states comply with these provisions. A failure!
There were no environmental impact assessments (EIA), neither for the explorations in Greek waters some months ago, nor for the current seismic explorations in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. There’s hardly a more negligent way to deal with this situation. According to the will of the oil industry, there should be no demand for EIAs also in the future. But that’s exactly what the European Parliament’s Environment Committee proposes to the plenary and to the European Council. There’s reason to hope that the Members of Parliament will to show backbone and approve the proposed draft.
In the meantime, for several weeks every ten seconds or so a blast is emitted into the Adriatic Sea, each up to 260 dB. The notion that maybe in five years a study will evaluate the damage done today appears nothing but crazy to me.
Please give your voice to marine wildlife in the Mediterranean and sign the petition by OceanCare to the Croatian Government at http://www.silentoceans.com.