Posts Tagged ‘NOAA’

Offshore drilling, noise and whale deaths: is there a connection?

A dead whale in Ghana’s Western Region. Photo: Friends of the Nation

While working in Ghana last year, I learned that an unusually high number of dead whales had washed ashore since the start of oil drilling. I talked to several local environmentalists who feared the deaths were connected to the country’s oil industry but had no resources to investigate. Without offering any details or study results, the Ghana EPA declared the whale deaths were unrelated to the oil industry.

Although there had been no significant oil spills in Ghana, another form of pollution, which may have played a role in the whale deaths, was ongoing yet invisible: Noise pollution. Shipping and drilling are two known causes of significant underwater noise. Noise pollution  – especially when it’s below the ocean surface — doesn’t get much attention. But as a recent article in the New York Times points out, the world’s oceans are increasingly noisy and the impact on marine life,  mammals in particular, may be devastating:

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Did U.S. government downplay B.P. spill impact on wildlife?

Photo: NOAA

Greenpeace has obtained a cache of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) documents and photographs that suggest U.S. government officials kept information from the public in an attempt to downplay the environmental damage of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

On June 15, 2010, NOAA crew aboard the research vessel, Pisces, spotted a dead sperm whale floating in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Guardian, “NOAA did put out a press release about the dead whale. However, the release was edited and shortened in a way which appeared to minimise the effects of oil on whales.”  The press coverage of the whale spotting was limited and it appears now that may have been the objective of U.S. officials.

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The silent victims of oil pollution

Dolphins jumping through oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Photo: NOAA

News from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is supporting what many have been saying for months: Pollution from the Deepwater Horizon spill is ongoing and harming life in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday the NOAA released information on the disturbing results of its dolphin study, which found that bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico are “severely ill.”

The news was reported by the New York Times and elsewhere, but it was buried down in the environment section. The environment, dolphins, pollution — none of this seems as important as rising gas prices and the administration’s efforts to boost drilling both onshore and offshore.

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