These sound waves testing for oil slam dynamite blasts into the hearing apparatus of marine mammals that rely on hearing for survival.

Stop Underwater Slaughter! The Desperate Fight to Save Sea Creatures From Death by Sound

Kristin Butler

As the rush to locate new oil reserves intensifies and technology improves, more and more companies are seeking crude deposits deep below the seabed. But locating them entails bouncing sonic waves off the ocean floor, in essence setting off dynamite blasts that can damage the hearing of numerous aquatic creatures, especially marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

RELATED: 'A Deaf Whale Is a Dead Whale': Sound Blasting for Oil Threatens Marine Life

Several groups, some of them working with Indigenous Peoples, are fighting to maintain peace underwater. Oceana, the world's largest advocacy organization focused on ocean conservation, is steering the groundswell of opposition to seismic testing. Nancy Pyne, the grassroots manager of Oceana's climate and energy campaign, and her team of four campaign organizers—based in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida—have been working with East Coast communities to prevent seismic blasting in the Atlantic Ocean by helping community draft resolutions against the destructive practice.

"We have gotten more than 200 national, state and local elected officials to oppose general offshore oil exploration, and 37 communities from New Jersey to Florida have passed resolutions opposing seismic testing and offshore drilling," Pyne said. "Tribal communities are on our radar, but we're a small, scrappy, grassroots team. We haven't tapped indigenous communities yet, but we'd like to.”

In February, Oceana did meet with elected Queen Quet, chief and head of state for the Gullah/Geechee Nation, a people widely respected as "a nation within a nation" from the time of chattel enslavement in the United States until they officially became an internationally recognized nation on July 2, 2000.

"Queen Quet is passionately opposed to offshore drilling," Pyne said. "She is an environmentalist at heart and has really taken it upon herself to educate her community. We would love to see this happen with indigenous communities."

Pyne is eager to educate tribal communities on the threat of seismic testing and help American Indian Nations draft resolutions opposing offshore oil exploration, she told ICTMN.

Battling Big Oil in the Arctic

The Inuit in Canada are fighting against seismic exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic. Last year Canada’s National Energy Board approved a five-year plan for oil companies to begin seismic exploration in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait. These Arctic waters are home to 90 percent of the world's narwhals (an estimated 50,000), as well as bowhead whales, walruses, seals and 116 species of fish, according to the Canadian Press.

"The search for oil will deafen, disorient, and kill any narwhals caught in its path," states a petition on SumOfUs.org.

Jerry Natanine, mayor of Clyde River, Nunavut, and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization have asked the Federal Court of Appeal for a judicial review of the decision, reported CBC News.

"We depend on these waters for food and the very existence of Inuit life depend on them," stated Clyde River resident Niore Iqalukjuak, the man behind the seismic protest Facebook page, in an open letter to Nunavut Member of Parliament Leona Aglukkaq, of the Conservative party. "We fear that what the Conservative government is doing is a cultural genocide and will end the Inuit way of life as we know it."

Natanine, Iqalukjuak and the Clyde River community joined forces with Greenpeace Canada to protest seismic testing in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait on July 23, 2014.

Risking a Spill

Seismic testing is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If exploration leads to drilling, there’s the risk of a devastating oil spill on the East Coast. April 20 marks the fifth anniversary of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and dumped an estimated 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 day. Last spring, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lifted the ban on BP’s signing of new drilling deals. Now the conglomerate is bidding to explore in Atlantic waters.

"What is the Obama administration thinking?" Kline said. Offshore drilling is "not an operation we're ever going to have great control over. …Given the Obama administration's recent rhetoric about climate change and the need to address it, it's quite hypocritical that the Obama administration is even considering offshore drilling."

Next week, check out ICTMN's third installment, about Inuit resistance to the "cultural genocide" of seismic surveying in their waters.

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