Case Study:Underwater Blasts and Whales

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Mon, 7 Nov 1994 21:22:14

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Date: Mon, 07 Nov 1994 21:13:47 -0500 (EST)
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Subject: Case Study:Underwater Blasts and Whales
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Subj:	Undersea blasts may affect
 
Date:         Mon, 7 Nov 1994 13:24:11 PST
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From:         r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
Subject:      Undersea blasts may affect
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Undersea blasts may affect whales
By Tanya Willmer
     TORONTO, Oct 20 (Reuter) - Underwater blasting for Canada's
massive Hibernia oil project off the coast of Newfoundland may
have affected humpback whales feeding in the area, researchers
said on Thursday.
     Researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland's Whale
Research Group will meet Hibernia officials next week to discuss
their study of the whale population at Trinity Bay, where the
Hibernia oil platform is being built.
     Biologist Sean Todd told Reuters the study, conducted two
years ago, could not prove a link between the underwater
blasting by Hibernia and the discovery of humpback whales with
damaged ear structures.
     But Todd added: "There's enough evidence to recommend
caution whenever any company is doing activities in the ocean
that might involve acoustic pollution ... that includes all
kinds of things such as explosions or drilling or dredging."
     A spokesman for Hibernia Management and Development Ltd
responsible for the $6.4 billion Canadian ($4.7 billion U.S.)
oil project said all blasting, which was connected with
construction of a dry dock, had been completed.
     "Our work is done," he said. "As the study says, there's
no conclusive evidence that any of the blasting affected the
whales."
     Professor Jon Lien, who is in charge of the study, told the
Canadian Press: "The company has certainly responded in the
spirit of the study and said (they) will be very cautious."
     The Whale Research Group, a government-funded group which
monitors whale activity to aid the fishing industry, began its
study after noticing a greater proportion of whales became
entrapped in fishing nets in the Trinity Bay area.
     "When we dissected two of the animals that had died in the
area as a result of entrapment we discovered they had been
recaught in the nets, which is rare. We also found both these
humpbacks had damaged ear structures," said Todd.
     "We can't prove that the explosions caused the damaged ear
structures. We cannot prove that the damaged ear structures led
to entrapment nor can we prove that the damaged ear structures
led to death," he said.
     Todd said it was not a case of an endangered species being
threatened as there were between 5,000 and 7,000 humpback whales
around the east coast during the summer, the largest population
in the world.
     But he said the group's study was one of the first to
document damage to the ear structure of the whales, probably
from an acoustic source.
     The Hibernia project is due to come on stream in December
1997 with production peaking at 125,000 barrels of oil a day,
about 10 percent of Canada's total current oil output.