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Sigrid, more than 150 sea turtles and 6 dolphins stranded during the time of oil explorations in the Adriatic Sea off Croatia. Was the noise too much for them?

Sigi

Sigrid Lüber, President of OceanCare,
initiater of Silent Oceans

This is currently investigated by the Padua University in Italy. One thing is certain: There has never before been such an accumulation of reports on stranding events that prove or suspect underwater noise by oil explorations, oil drillings or military sonar to be the cause of death. The most recent case is the stranding of about 400 dolphins in Peru a few days ago. The oceans have been filled with infernal noise.

 

Silent Oceans wrote in a newsletter that the Croatian government didn’t respond to your letter. Didn’t you follow up?
We did follow up and on the 10th of January we received a response to our letter dated 13th of August 2013. The Croatian government claims that there’s no need to be worried.

So everything was above-board?
Not at all, when the Croatian government did not even consider checking whether the potential impacts of seismic explorations on nature should be investigated.

May we have a look at the letter?
Of course, here you can read the response by the Croatian government.

You always speak of environmental impact assessments (EIAs). What does that mean in practice?
It means that prior to noise activities you identify potential impacts on marine fauna and flora. This involves analyzing the relevant conditions, according to each region’s individual characteristics. You have to take everything into account and describe the key points for each area individually. Read more on general EIA key points from page 25 [pdf, 6 MB]. Among other things you would for example have to check

  • how sound is spreading in the particular sea area – e.g. if there are canyons where the noise is reflected by the rocks and the animals cannot swim away for topographical reasons, or
  • if there are seasonal differences in species occurrence in the area.

Can EIAs really protect the animals from the noise? After all, there are no barriers to noise in the sea and noise is travelling four to five times faster in water than in air.
The EIAs themselves are not helping the animals. But if an EIA clearly finds that damage cannot be ruled out, according to the precautionary principle the noise activity shall not take place. That’s how EIAs can effectively protect the animals.

Isn’t it more important to establish protected areas that remain free of noise?
Of course there is a need for protected areas, and these areas need buffer zones, because noise travels across boundaries. The effectiveness of protected areas is proven by the ban on military sonar within a 50 nautical mile radius around the Canary Islands. Since the ban became effective in 2004 there were no strandings anymore!

If within the next few days the Environment Committee of the European Parliament and in March also the Plenary approve the draft legislative provision: Does this mean that Silent Oceans reached its goal?
It would be an important landmark that we have been working hard for. But there’s a lot more work to do for Silent Oceans: The contents of an EIA specific to the Adriatic Sea have to be developed. Further, the implementation of the EIA has to be controlled, including taking legal actions against offenders.

What else can a concerned citizen do, who already protested at silentoceans.com?
First I want to thank the 8755 people who sent a letter of protest to the Croatian government via www.silentoceans.com. That’s great! Your contribution effectively stepped up public pressure. Many people, media and institutions told me that only through Silent Oceans they learned about the oil explorations.

Further action you can take to fight alongside Silent Oceans against ocean noise:

  • Spread photos online, e.g. via Facebook, so that more people can become aware and join Silent Oceans:

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  • Share the short film brilliantly illustrating the causes and consequences of underwater noise: http://vimeo.com/67804123
  • Translate Silent Oceans ads and offer them for example to Croatian media. A big number of media in Switzerland and Austria granted free advertising space to Silent Oceans. Throughout Europe, media featured reports about this scandal. Thank you very much! These are our ads for free advertising space (contact: enews@oceancare.org):

  Wal Kugelfisch Schildrköte

  • Silent Oceans is made possible by donations. Every support is counting – thank you to everybody for joining us in lending our voice to the marine wildlife of the Adriatic Sea!

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