Posted on January 18, 2010 (updated: January 18, 2010)

Seismic Tests Threaten Marine Protected Area and Whales

VANCOUVER – Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to stop seismic blasting by an American research vessel that threatens endangered whales in a Canadian marine protected area.

U.S. researchers have asked Canada to grant a controversial seismic vessel access to the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents, a marine protected area off British Columbia’s coast and a habitat of blue whales, fin whales, and other marine life. On behalf of Living Oceans Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ecojustice has filed a lawsuit alleging that Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs cannot grant clearance to a foreign vessel that is expected to harass marine mammals in violation of Canadian law.

“To ensure compliance with environmental laws, Canada should deny clearance to this vessel and refuse to sanction the harassment of endangered whales” say Lara Tessaro, Ecojustice lawyer.

The R.V. Marcus Langseth would cause intense acoustic disturbance from a 36 air gun seismic array, which would blast at 180 decibels every 2 or 3 minutes. The seismic blasts would gather information about the structure of the local sub-seafloor and are slated to continue for one month, beginning as early as August 14th. The Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents were designated as Canada’s first Marine Protected Area in 2003 to protect deep ocean hydrothermal vents and unique species that live there.

“If marine animals can’t find safety in the few areas set aside for them, where will they find it?” says CPAWS National Oceans Manager Sabine Jessen, “They have little chance of survival in the long-term without these refuges from human disturbance.”

“Seismic testing is known to cause hearing loss and behavioural disturbances in whales,” says Kim Wright of Living Oceans Society, “Any research needs to be done in a way that does not threaten marine life in the area.”

The environmental groups bringing forward the lawsuit have sought a court hearing on Friday, August 14 in Federal Court in Ottawa at 90 Sparks Street.


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