IAGC Involved in Effort to Protect the Whales

Environmental and Safety Issues

The geophysical industry is actively participating in research programs to better identify the impact of air-gun arrays on marine mammals — IAGC members, for example, have committed to fund a seismic vessel for an MMS led research project this summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

IAGC president Chip Gill said this will be the third year of the study examining the impacts of industry activity on sperm whales in the Gulf.

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The geophysical industry is actively participating in research programs to better identify the impact of air-gun arrays on marine mammals — IAGC members, for example, have committed to fund a seismic vessel for an MMS led research project this summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

IAGC president Chip Gill said this will be the third year of the study examining the impacts of industry activity on sperm whales in the Gulf.

There was no general awareness of sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico until the 1980s as the petroleum industry moved out into deeper waters where the giant mammals feed.

The research program will satellite tag whales to monitor their movements on the surface as well as affix a temporary tag that can provide data on the whales' position, acoustic information – both vocalizations and what the animal is hearing – and physiological data like heart rate.

IAGC will be providing the seismic source vessel and will help design an experiment that looks at the animals' behavior:

  • Before any seismic source is introduced into the water.
  • Any alterations in behavior when a seismic source is introduced.
  • How they respond when the seismic source is removed from the water.

"There appears to be less concern about the immediate physical impact on the animals," Gill said. "It is generally accepted by the research and regulatory community that these animals are not physically harmed – the question is how seismic acoustic noise affects behavior.

"Does it interrupt their ability to feed, mate or raise their young? Research like the program planned for this summer should help answer some of those questions."

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