Scientists call for seismic testing ban to protect the world’s rarest dolphins

Scientists call for seismic testing ban to protect the world’s rarest dolphins

hectors dolphin

There are just 55 Maui’s dolphins left and seismic testing could threaten their survival (photo credit: S Dawson NABU International)

Some of the world’s leading marine mammal scientists are calling on the New Zealand government to stop and ban seismic testing in the habitat of the world’s rarest sub-species of dolphin. With just 55 thought to be remaining the Maui’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) lives off the west coast of North Island in New Zealand. The scientists believe that noise from the seismic testing could damage the hearing of the dolphins and also drive them into fishing grounds where they could be caught in nets.

In a letter to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) urges the government to immediately halt seismic testing in Maui’s dolphin habitat. With a membership of some 2,000 scientists from 60 countries, the SMM is the world’s largest professional body dedicated to research on marine mammals and the ecosystems that support them.

Fishing is the primary cause of death among the last 55 surviving Maui’s dolphins – which are the smallest as well as the rarest dolphins in the world. Gillnets and trawling kill about nine per cent of the population a year – that’s 75 times more than the sustainable limit.

The SMM highlights that a proposed seismic project in the US was rejected because of its expected
impact on an otherwise unthreatened population of more than 2,000 porpoises. The impact on the last 55 Maui’s dolphins could be devastating.

 “Allowing this seismic testing thus appears inconsistent with the New Zealand Government’s stated goal of enabling this subspecies to recover,” writes SMM President Professor Helene Marsh.

Seismic testing involves blasting compressed air at the sea floor. The noise penetrates the sea bed and can help discover the make up of the seafloor and any potential oil and gas deposits. The blasts of air are released every 20  seconds or so and are released around the clock for weeks and even months at a time. [pullquote]We are strongly opposed to seismic testing in Maui’s dolphin habitat and support the use of renewable energy. Oil and gas exploration leads to oil and gas exploitation, which involves further dangers to the marine environment through offshore drilling, spills, leaks, and increased fossil fuel emissions[/pullquote]

Twenty-four cetacean species have shown negative effects to marine noise pollution,” says NABU International’s Head of International Species Conservation, Dr. Barbara Maas.

“Noise is a well known stressor, not just for marine mammals. This means seismic testing is potentially dangerous, even if it doesn’t kill the dolphins outright.

Chronic stress can heighten susceptibility to other threats and slow down population recovery by
suppressing reproduction and the immune system. It can even harm unborn dolphins prenatally, all of which Maui’s dolphins can ill afford.”

NABU International is delighted that the SMM is speaking up about the urgent need to safeguard this desperately vulnerable species”, says Dr. Maas.

We are strongly opposed to seismic testing in Maui’s dolphin habitat and support the use of renewable energy. Oil and gas exploration leads to oil and gas exploitation, which involves further dangers to the marine environment through offshore drilling, spills, leaks, and increased fossil fuel emissions.”

 

If you want to help add your weight to the campaign to end seismic testing in the Maui’s dolphin habitat please sign the petition below:

  [emailpetition id="5"]

Please be aware we operate a 20 minute database cache on Wildlife News so there can be a delay between you signing the petition and the signature count increasing.

193 thoughts on “Scientists call for seismic testing ban to protect the world’s rarest dolphins

  1. I hope you are successful in your campaign to stop the testing. I admit to being surprised that new Zealand is allowing it as I always thought of the country being relatively ‘ecologically sound’.

  2. Sadly, it’s mostly window dressing. These animals have been dying of willful neglect and in anonymity for decades. Now there are only a handful of them left and still NZ will do nothing to stop their decline. We need as many people as possible to help stop this extinction. Thank you again for helping with this and by hosting your petition.

  3. I’ve worked in the oil & gas industry for over 2 decades, particularly on these vessels that do the exploration. I’d be interested to see this research that is mentioned in the article above. Nowadays in the seismic exploration industry it is pretty common practice to have onboard the vessels Marine Mammal Observers (MMO’s) whose job it is is to spot any marine mammals in the vicinity of operations. If they do, the job is stopped – no questions asked. When the mammals have moved on & are well clear of the area, then the job can resume. Most of the MMO’s these days are qualified in the marine biology industry (PhD’s, etc) & all of the ones I have spoken with tend to agree that, at this point in time, there is no clear evidence that seismic activity caused by the oil industry is indeed at fault. I also find it hard to believe because during my 20+ years offshore I can recall on numerous occasions where large pods of dolphins (200+) have swum right through the “airguns” that “blast compressed air into the sea-floor” while they are in use. We are all brought up to believe dolphins are quite intelligent creatures. If this process was causing them great stress, surely they would head off away from them, not swim right through them? Anyway, I’m all for the creatures of the earth as are most guys working in the oil industry. If the evidence is there, then I’m sure it will be recognised. I for one don’t think it is there…… but that’s just me. Ironically, the article states in black & white what is killing these dolphins – “Fishing is the primary cause of death among the last 55 surviving Maui’s dolphins”. Maybe a fishing net ban in this area would be more effective?

Comments are closed.