Environmental groups and others claim that they do (or can)!  However, there is absolutely no evidence to support their claims while, in fact, there is significant evidence to the contrary.  Firstly, during recent years many mass strandings of whales occur in regions where:

  1. no seismic surveys have been conducted (eg. East coast of Tasmania); or
  2. some seismic surveys are conducted and no correlation has been found between strandings and seismic surveys (eg East Coast of Australia, North & West coasts of Tasmania, New Zealand)

Secondly, mass strandings of whales have occurred throughout history well before seismic surveys were conducted (or even dreamed of!).  For example, in about 350 BC, Aristotle noted: “It is not known why they sometimes run aground on the seashore: for it is asserted that this happens rather frequently when the fancy takes them and without any apparent reason.”  It’s interesting to note that the world’s researchers are still searching for reasons!!

Thirdly, there are many researchers and expert panels that have investigated stranding records or specific strandings and have always concluded that other causes are more likely.  For example, in the case of the 2008 mass stranding of melon headed whales in NW Madagascar, for which the independent scientific review panel (ISRP) report was published in late September 2013, their conclusion was that seismic surveys “clearly did not” cause the stranding event.  Similarly, analysis of 639 stranding events around Tasmania from 1920-2002 by Evans et al in a publication entitled “Periodic variability in cetacean strandings: links to large-scale climate events” demonstrated a clear 11-13-year periodicity in the number of events which positively correlated with large-scale climate events.

Thus, given the above and the lack of behavioural response (such as avoidance) of many cetacean species in the vicinity of seismic surveys, it is highly unlikely that seismic surveys cause whales to strand.