Target: Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Goal: Prevent oil and gas exploration from driving the rare North Atlantic right whale into extinction
Known for their thick blubber and their tendency to float near the surface, the right whale has been an easy target for whalers, and overhunting nearly caused the species to go extinct. Today, a mere 500 whales remain, closely monitored by scientists who tell them apart unfortunately by the scars and bruises the whales bear from getting hit by propellers or ship’s hulls. Now North Atlantic right whales face another threat, as oil and gas companies have just received the federal government’s permission to seek permits for seismic noise cannons, according to a recent National Geographic News article. Sending a shock wave of sound down to the ocean floor every ten to fifteen seconds, these cannons will be used to search from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Florida for oil and gas deposits to prepare for drilling after 2017.
Sounds of increased shipping traffic are already known to interfere with the whales’ sonar communication, the complex series of buzzes, creaks, groans, and growls they emit often over long distances to socialize, breed, and find food. Sounds close in frequency, such as those emitted by a ship’s propeller just miles away can mask a right whale’s call. Worse still, the high decibel blasts of cannons used in oil prospecting can injure marine animals, putting out more noise than any other human source of sound save for dynamite.
In addition to the North Atlantic right whale, six other endangered mammal species, including the West Indian manatee and the humpback, sperm, fin, blue, and sei whales, will be made to endure this noise pollution. Should the deafening sounds of air-gun bring these animals to cease communicating, as some scientists fear, they would be unable to search for food or even to find their young. Please sign the petition below, and prevent the search for oil and gas from silencing these endangered animals forever.
Dear Secretary Jewell,
I am writing to bring your attention to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, which nearly went extinct due to overhunting. The mere 500 whales that remain face another threat as oil and gas companies have just received permission to seek permits for seismic noise cannons, which they will use to search for deposits and prepare for drilling in 2017. Sending shock waves to the ocean floor, these cannons put out more noise than any other human source of sound save for dynamite. Their blasts can be extremely harmful not just to the North Atlantic right whale, but to all marine life that relies on sonar communication to perform basic life functions.
Your colleagues within the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have assured the public that precautions such as watching and listening for whales will be taken. Unfortunately, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents all aspects of the oil and gas industry, has declared even these measures to be unnecessary, insisting such surveys pose no danger to marine animals.
I urge you to use this otherwise grim situation as an opportunity to educate those of us for whom marine ecosystems might seem distant and static. A halt to all oil prospecting might be far in the future, but now is the time to reflect honestly about the profound impact that we humans have had on this planet and decide on the kind of impact we want to have moving forward. Please use your leadership to help us internalize the consequences of our actions, so that before we destroy other life, we know what we might lose.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Allied Whale Bar Harbor Whale Watch via flickr