Op-ed: Seismic surveys provide a safe foundation for offshore energy

Washington Examiner | Randall Luthi | March 28, 2019

There has been much debate about proposed offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast. Some people are trying to drive policy decisions by creating unfounded fear about the potential impacts of seismic surveys. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that seismic surveys harm fish or marine mammals. In fact, seismic surveys are safely conducted almost daily around the world. Understanding how they work can help to allay unfounded fears.

Seismic surveys use the same technological principles as an ultrasound in a medical procedure, just on a larger scale. Survey vessels release compressed air, creating sound waves that echo back when they reach solid items in the water column, underwater structures or the sea floor. These echoes are recorded by sensitive instruments on the survey vessels and then analyzed to produce an accurate picture of the ocean floor and what lies below.

Just like any other oceanic noise, these sounds waves may temporarily alter the behavior of marine mammals or fish, but they do not cause injury. Survey vessels seldom cover the same area twice, and fish and marine mammals that may change their direction during a survey pass, return to the area once the vessel has departed.

Recent studies seeking to discredit the safety of seismic surveys are effective clickbait generators; however, they do not reflect real-world operating conditions nor take into account the stringent mitigation measures employed by seismic professionals. Exclusion zones, soft-start procedures, visual observers, and passive acoustic monitoring ensure the safety of marine life. Operations cease, should any marine mammal be sighted near an ongoing survey.

Read the full op-ed here.