War Against The Dolphins
By Dr. Lorin Swinehart
“The dolphins are here!” called my wife LaVon from the next room.
I hurried out on to the deck, where I spied perhaps a dozen of our finny friends engaging in a finely coordinated strategy, herding a school of fish against the shore. A few appeared to be “surfing”, riding the waves right up onto the sands to better capture and gobble up their prey.
Farther out, halfway to where the overhanging heavens caress the watery rim of the Gulf Stream, a struggle was taking place. A flock of pelicans were busily crashing onto the surface in ungainly five point landings, the better to stun their prey. Each time, a dolphin would shoot to the surface among them, causing them to flap off in squawking fury. This game went on for some time, until the combatants headed elsewhere, a bit of drama beneath the azure skies of coastal North Carolina, attesting to the playful nature of dolphins.
For many years, my wife and I have sought sanctuary from the gray skies and deep snows of Ohio by defecting to this fascinating coastline. The dolphins are part of the allure. They are sensitive, social, highly intelligent creatures, possessing larger brains than humans. They navigate, communicate and hunt for food by means of an acute sense of hearing. Damage a dolphin’s hearing and you kill the dolphin.
Dolphins are mammals that breathe air. Each year, hundreds die horribly from being trapped beneath gill nets, trawls and other instruments of industrial fishing. These deaths are completely preventable. Dolphins are exposed to injury and death every day around the globe.
Now, huge oil companies plan to initiate, with the blessing of the federal government, a program of seismic blasting to seek undersea gas and oil deposits along the Atlantic coast, a plan that will endanger approximately 138,000 dolphins and whales and threaten millions more. Seismic Air guns are towed behind ships, blasting every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks and months on end. The reports, many times louder than a jet engine taking off, disturb, harm and kill marine life, endangering local fisheries and the people who depend upon them, and disrupting coastal economies. The coastlines of Mexico, Canada and other nations are not immune to this threat.
The American Petroleum Institute argues that, “Seismic testing has been proven to be safe,” but one must view the proclamations of corporate spokesmen with great skepticism.
More energy can be produced and more jobs created by harnessing offshore wind than by drilling for fossil fuels. Along the Carolina coast alone an estimated 82,000 new jobs would be created by offshore wind production, while only 36,000 would result from oil and gas drilling.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, in 2010, seismic blasting conducted by Rosneft, a Russian gas and oil exploration company, caused endangered gray whales to flee from their crucial feeding habitat near Sakhalin Island. The Russian government stubbornly persisted in these activities, refusing to acknowledge protests by many nations, organizations and individuals.
In 1992, whales off the Newfoundland coast suffered hearing loss after seismic blasting was conducted in the area. Alaskan whales have also been found to have hearing damage following such exploration in that region. Many seashore communities have passed resolutions opposing gas and oil development along both coasts. Seismic blasting places the camel’s nose under the tent, leading to gas and oil drilling and potentially devastating leaks and spills along fragile marine environments. Billions in tourist dollars can be lost.
It remains for concerned citizens to place the lives and wellbeing of harmless sea creatures ahead of demands for cheap seafood and the schemes of oil companies. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has observed, “As part of nature, we are commanded to ‘serve and protect nature’, avoiding cruelty to animals and acting as guardians of the integrity of the environment.”