Why oil and gas companies should buy whales hearing aids

whale hearing aid

Whales, the earth’s largest marine mammals, have had more than their share of ecological problems in all parts of the world’s seas and oceans. One of their biggest risks is noise in marine habitats caused by drilling for oil and gas. 

Who’s at risk? Those in unlikely marine habitats such as the Eastern Mediterranean, where a rare grey whale was sighted.

A previously unknown sub-species of humpback whale, named Arabian Whale, was also found swimming in waters off Oman. Sites of regular oil drilling.

Whales communicate and find their way by emitting sounds to one another as well as off marine objects such as reefs. Studies made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that migrating  Western Grey Whales are greatly disturbed by underwater intense  seismic sounds produced by oil and gas exploration companies in areas where they  often frequent; such as near Sakhalin Island, north of Japan.

The seismic surveys conducted by these oil and gas exploration companies involve using intense underwater sound blasts when searching for subterranean oil and gas deposits.

The intense sounds affect the whales, which rely on sound for communication, navigation and foraging for food.

Exposure to loud noise from seismic surveys can result in stress and behavior changes,  which affect foraging and nursing calves. The intense noise can also cause direct physical damage to the animals themselves. The company carrying out the surveys, Energy Investment Company Ltd, claims that the surveys are carried out in a manner that  “has not revealed significant impact on the whales”.

Migrating whales are often seen swimming together with other marine mammals like dolphins.

Other whale species, such as Pilot Whales, have been involved in numerous incidents involving being stranded on beaches.

The most recent incident occurred off Ft. Myers Florida January 21. Marine biologists believe that Pilot Whale beachings may be the result of the animal’s communication and direction finding senses being “confused” by various factors; including marine pollution and possibly by conflicting undersea noises as well.

The IUCN study was published in the Journal of Aquatic Mammals; and based its research on the migration routes and prime feeding grounds of the Western Grey Whale species.

The survey co-author, Dr Greg Donovan, is Chairman of the Western Grey Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) Seismic Survey and Noise Task Force. He is also Head of Science at the International Whaling Commission. To reduce the chance of seismic soundings disturbing the whales, he recommends that: “In the Sakhalin case it is advisable to conduct the surveys as soon as the winter ice has melted but most of the whales have not yet arrived.”

More articles about whales and other marine mammals in the Mediterranean and Middle East:

New Arabian Humpback Whale Species Located in Oman

Iron-rich Whale Poop Essential in Middle Eastern Marine Habitats

Is Willie the Grey Whale Lost of Looking for Club Med?

Image via WWF

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One thought on “Why oil and gas companies should buy whales hearing aids”

  1. Maurice says:

    Just to update this; a similar issue involving seismic blast testing is now occurring in the Gulf of Mexico – that same place when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew out 4 years ago and gushed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf, possibly changing its eco-systems forever. The blasts are also said to be causing harm to dolphins and other marine life there.

    When will energy production people ever learn about the damage being caused to our seas and oceans by oil and gas exploration – or will they ever learn?

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