Seismic Effect

Aug 28, 2012 12:29 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Seismic Effect: Marine Life

Humpback Whales have drawn thousands of people to the central coast the last few weeks.

Many were up close and personal during their spectacular show.

In our ongoing coverage of the seismic effect, tonight we take a look at the effect of PG&E's planned seismic testing on marine life.

Because these tests require a high frequency air cannon being fired to the bottom of the ocean, many of the different marine species are vulnerable including the amazing whales we've seen here recently.

But PG&E says they have a plan in place to limit that impact.

"In december we do have Grey Whales, and we always have Harbor Porpoise , California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Southern Sea Otters," says Lisa Harper-Henderson of the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay.

With the abundance of marine life on the central coast its no wonder why so many are worried about these seismic surveys.

"We're committed to doing this work in a way that has the least impacts on the environment," says Blair Jones, spokesperson for PG&E.

PG&E's first plan of action is to give marine life a heads up.

"As the research vessel enters the survey area, they'll start emitting low pulse sounds to warn marine life in the area," says Jones. "Those sounds will slowly ramp up until we get to the level that's needed to preform the survey."

As those sounds get louder, the marine life in theory will get as far away from the source as they can.

In addition, spotter boats, helicopters and marine biologists aboard the research vessel will also be on the lookout for marine life venturing into the survey area. At night, researchers will use infrared to spot marine life entering the area.

"And if any whales or other sea life is in the survey area, all work is going to cease," says Jones.

But avoiding these encounters is not absolute according to PG&E, and the consequences can be fatal.

"If organism, animals, or Plankton, were very close to that sound source, there would be a significant injury or mortality," says Dean Wendt, a professor of biology at Cal Poly.

Although that fatality that he's talking about is a possibility,it is not likely to be significant. These types of studies go on all over the world, even here on the central coast. All the off shore oil rigs we see in Santa Barbara are a product of seismic mapping preformed by the same type of vessel without out major marine impacts.

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.

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