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Fin whale

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US agreement offers hope for whales and dolphins in Gulf of Mexico

WDC is delighted by a landmark US legal decision to exclude underwater surveys for oil and gas from some important whale and dolphin habitats in the Gulf of Mexico.

The long-awaited settlement agreement followed legal challenges to the seismic surveys, which emit loud pulses of noise sent down to the seabed to locate oil and gas deposits, and also forces investigation into the use of alternative, quieter methods.

The ruling will not take effect until approved by the court, but in the meantime, the DeSoto Canyon and certain sperm whale habitats will immediately be off-limits to the surveys, and a coastal area exclusion during the peak bottlenose dolphin calving season has also been established.

This is a big and long overdue win for the Gulf of Mexico whales”, says WDC policy lead Sarah Dolman. For too long, governments have allowed the oil and gas industry world-wide to apply ineffective and short term mitigation measures during intensely noisy seismic surveys. Whales and dolphins that rely on the Gulf of Mexico habitat have suffered decades of on-going seismic surveys. This US decision offers real protection to whales and dolphins by putting their critical habitats off limits to seismic surveys. 

“In addition, a requirement to investigate quieter alternatives to airguns is forward thinking and should be an approach that is pursued world-wide, not just in the Gulf of Mexico, and by other noise-inducing sectors, including the marine renewables and shipping industries.”