The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is intensifying global efforts to safeguard whales and other marine species from the harm caused by powerful noises generated by seismic seafloor surveys by the oil and gas industry and others. In seismic surveys, air guns towed behind ships repeat powerful bursts of sound; sensors measure the return echo to reveal details of the sea floor and the underlying geologic structure to a depth of several kilometers.
Whales rely on sound for communication, navigation and foraging. Exposure to loud noise from seismic surveys can result in stress and behavior changes, affect foraging and nursing or cause direct physical damage.
In a study published in the journal Aquatic Mammals, the authors present the most thorough, robust and practical approach to minimizing and monitoring the risk of harm to vulnerable marine species when intense sounds are used. A step-by step guide to reducing effects on whales and other marine species during seismic sea floor surveys is available from the IUCN Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel and Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (Tinyurl.com/WhaleSavingGuide).