Following our article entitled “Inconvenient Truths….” demonstrating how OFSKI is suppressing the truth and spreading misinformation on their Facebook page, the torrent of untruths continues.  Surely OFSKI cannot believe that repeating falsehoods hundreds or thousands of times will make them true?  TNR seeks to ensure that the truth (ie factual, scientific and verifiable information) holds sway in any discussion but by censoring such truths, OFSKI clearly seeks to misinform a caring community.

TNR has already countered/challenged some of OFSKI’s posts on the TNR Facebook page, but it is worth drilling down to a number of comments placed by “OFSKI supporters” to see what sort of misinformation is being peddled on their page.

A.Firstly, John Reihart  (is this guy for real? He seems to have a “holier than thou” complex!) provided some apparently “expert” comments on strandings as follows (John Reihart’s and others’ comments shown in italics with TNR’s response shown immediately after each section in regular font):

Even though Peter Wales is clearly a Big Oil shill and it is worthless to waste one’s time on arguing with them, there have been scientific studies linking seismic and other type of surveys Big Oil uses to strandings. It is also important to note that strandings and die offs are not systematically investigated due to the fact that funding is limited, and Big Oil and the Navy (two industries that basically fund 95 % of marine mammals research worldwide) are not interested in supporting these kinds of inquiries that could incriminate them. 

Most of this statement is FALSE although it is true that the navy and petroleum industry do fund significant amounts of marine mammal research worldwide. Interesting, why don’t the likes of Greenpeace and IFAW spend some of their millions on valid marine mammal research?  However, we take particular exception to the last part (not interested in supporting these kinds of inquiries that could incriminate them).  Research must be based on credible concerns or hypotheses derived from data analysis. Where these are credible, as in the case of navy sonar, the US Navy, far from covering up, has openly admitted culpability and has spent a great deal of money openly investigating suspect strandings.  Published papers by D’Amico et al 2009 and Filadelfo et al 2009 reflect this openness.  They show that a suspicious pattern of strandings sometimes is and sometimes is not associated with sonar.  It is the PATTERN of repeated consistent strandings that support society’s concerns about naval anti-submarine sonars (but not other sonars). Meanwhile it is the ABSENCE of a historical pattern (plus the physics of sound attenuation in water and observations of cetaceans in the vicinity of seismic surveys) that supports the position of most thinking people that strandings are NOT linked to seismic surveys.

A1. 2002 Report by Malakoff, D. called “Suit ties whale deaths to research cruise“. This is a very interesting case because a team of researchers on vacation happened to be in a right place in a right time. The team of researchers has been sailing while on vacation in Mexico’s Gulf of California and unexpectedly discovered 2 stranded Cuvier’s beaked whale. Upon some digging around they have found that “Maurice Ewing, a research vessel owned by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, was conducting a seismic survey nearby. The ship was bouncing sound pulses produced by blasts of compressed air off the gulf’s floor to map the margins of the continental plate” (Malakoff, 2002). Interestingly, it was not an oil company, but University’s research vessel, BUT they used exactly the same air gun technology that oil companies use, i.e. airguns. Conclusion: “Although there is still no clear explanation of how sound might harm the whales, the gulf strandings “just seemed too coincidental, given the history,” says Barbara Taylor, one of the vacationers and a whale researcher at the government’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.” (Malakoff, 2002)

Firstly, the reference relates to legal suit that was not successful. Secondly, coincidence does not prove causality. Thirdly, it was not fully investigated. How can anyone claim that this ONE stranding event relates to seismic when other more plausible causes were not investigated?

A2. 2000 Report by Roger Gentry, called “Mass Stranding of Beaked Whales in the Galapagos Islands, April 2000” This report was about a stranding of three beaked whales and luckily this one was investigated in great detail. Remarkably, it also included the same research vessel (R/V Maurice Ewing) doing the same air guns surveys only in different area. 3 whales stranded and 2 were rescued and one died from Asphyxia, apart from that he had no any other serious abnormalities, injuries, etc.…/health/galapagos_stranding.pdf

The lack of abnormalities indicates that reaction to surveys could be behavioral, where whales panic and flee, but it also could be decompression related issues, because these whales were not tested for embolism. Actually, none of stranded alive whales are tested for embolism, as it has to be done within 24 hrs after death, so officials (Australia included) do not bother with it. 

John Reihart(JR) really shows his bias with the above.  The author clearly stated the two events did not correlate in space.  There is no evidence from any beaked whale stranding that they, especially those affected by acoustic exposure from navy sonar, can swim 200km or more from the exposure site to the stranding site.  JR conveniently misinterprets the report by saying this stranding was investigated in great detail – it was not, the report says they did not examine the brain and eyes for signs of hemorrhage.  Any impartial person reading this report would agree there was no way this event could have been cause and effect but merely a temporal coincidence.  JR is obviously not impartial.

A3. 2008 Madagascar stranding was linked to Exxon Mobil using multi-beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel. It is important to note that Big Oil does not only uses air guns, but also routinely uses other types of surveys, including multi-beam echosounders that have also been linked to strandings in the past.…/2013/09/130925132211.htm

As with the above Galapagos event, JR has distorted the conclusions of the investigation into this event to suit his own bias.  The Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) “systematically excluded or deemed highly unlikely nearly all potential reasons for the animals leaving their typical pelagic habitat and entering the Loza Lagoon (an extremely atypical area for this species). This included the use of seismic airguns in an offshore seismic survey several days after the whales were already in the lagoon system, which was originally speculated to have played some role but in the view of the ISRP clearly did not.”  Furthermore, why did JR not reference the authoritative IWC report but instead reference the Science daily magazine?  Any thinking person must come to the conclusion that it is to further mislead the reader.  As additional evidence of his aim to mislead, JR links seismic surveys to multi-beam echo sounders (FALSE) and claims “Big Oil….routinely uses other types of surveys, including multi-beam echosounders….” when their use is definitely NOT routine.  However TNR notes that echo sounders, which emit pulses at 225dB, are used routinely by most maritime users including the petroleum industry but also, for example, the fishing industry who use them as fish finders.  Hmmm, using them as fish finders……?

A4. Here is t=Australian site that trackjed strandings and Big oil surveys between 2002 and 2004.

These are just some examples and there are many more.

Anyone who relies on Oceana as a source of their information surely cannot expect to be taken seriously.  TNR has already written an exposé of the falsehoods in Oceana’s publications so how can anyone believe anything Oceana claims? Interestingly, Oceana have not countered TNR’s article – we can only assume they have no defence.  Furthermore, the work of reputable researchers  such as Evans et al 2005 and Bradshaw et al 2006 is ignored by the likes of Oceana, OFSKI and JR.  Perhaps because they are inconvenient truths?  Evans et al demonstrated an 11-13 year oscillation in cetacean strandings due to meteorological conditions.  In fact, Bradshaw et al, in which the oscillation was quoted as 12-14 years stated “The model derived in our analysis forecasted that the austral summer of 2004-2005 would be a peak year for strandings in Southern Australia and, indeed, many strandings occurred.” Furthermore, Bradshaw et al stated: “More specifically, the stranding-prone regions of the world such as southern Australia cannot be used to support the noise-pollution hypothesis because military and other sources of sonar noise pollution are relatively uncommon there.” How disingenuous of Oceana to ignore such plausible reasons for the strandings in 2003-2004 and claim the implausible.  It is also interesting to note that 11 years has elapsed since the 2003-2004 season so meteorological conditions is a very plausible reason for the recent spate of strandings.

Suffice to say, even though John Reihart’s comments may look “expert” to any casual reader, they do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

B.Another “expert” commentator on the OFSKI Facebook page is Michael J Davey (MJD).  Let’s see how his comments (in italics) stand up to scientific scrutiny:

“B1. The purpose and the technique
Seismic surveys consist of explosive blasts of compressed air or sound waves focused towards
seabed in order to establish the depth, position and shape of underground geologic formations. These blasts are sent out repeatedly from ships, at intervals of a few seconds, and the process is often repeated for days, weeks or even months, 24 hours a day.

NOT every few seconds – the average survey would emit pulses every 10 seconds. Also, NOT 24 hours per day (as shown in the linked article on TNR’s website).

B2. The sound waves generated by seismic surveys can reach 250 decibels (dB)37,38 and penetrate the earth’s crust to a depth of several kilometres.

FALSE. 250 decibels is a theoretical number that is rarely, if ever, reached in the vicinity of the array due to the array dimensions.  This would only be achieved if all the 20-30 elements (compressed air cylinders, commonly called “airguns”) in the array of about 10m by 15m occupied the same location. This is clearly impossible!  Given the output of each element is in the range 220-230dB the actual decibel level within 1m of any part of the array would be between 220 and 240dB, depending on the type of array.

Oceana (2012) Seismic Airgun Testing in the Atlantic

As mentioned above, TNR maintains that Oceana’s publications do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Thus, why do people believe them?

B4.The pressure is characterized by intensity and power. The intensity of a sound wave corresponding to the amount of energy emitted per unit of time to a given surface. The unit of measure commonly used is the decibel (dB) or 1/10 Bel, corresponds to the detection threshold of the human ear. Thus I (dB) = 10 log (Ison/Iref). The intensity is proportional to the square of the pressure (Pa).

This is included to “con” the reader into believing that MJD knows something about the subject.  Anybody can find and copy things on the internet but MJD clearly does not understand their relevance.  Using pressure (as opposed to converting to dB and referencing pressure), and also using imperial units which many people understand, seismic arrays operate at 2000psi. This compares to 45,000psi chamber pressure for a .303 rifle (often used as “power-heads” by divers to scare sharks away) and 3,000,000psi for a “real” underwater explosion using explosives.  Thus seismic pulses are not anything like powerhead blasts or underwater dynamite explosions.  In terms of attenuation and switching to dB a sound which may be 240dB re 1µPa(rms)@1m would be 234 at 2m, 228 at 4m, 222 at 8m, 216 at 16m, etc.  That is , double the distance, halve (reduce by 6dB) the sound.  Quite simple really so why does MJD make it so complicated?

B5.Source Seismic surveys in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Several of these surveys were conducted across the Gulf of St. Lawrence between 1968 and
1998. Corridor Resources Inc. conducted the most recent ones in October 2010 in order to obtain a high definition image of the seabed at the proposed Old Harry drilling site (geohazard seismic surveys).
Since sound travels much more readily in water than in air, the noise from one single seismic survey
can cover tens of thousands of km2 (close to 300,000 km2).39 Seismic surveys thus contribute to
raising the levels of ambient noise by two orders of magnitude (20 dB) above normal.40 Usually, the
biological impacts of seismic surveys on marine life are listed according to the following types of
• physical impacts: changes in organisms’ physical state;
• physiological impacts: changes in biological functions;
• behavioural impacts: changes in how organisms act.
However, more and more scientific evidence indicates that these surveys disrupt communication,
orientation, as well as the feeding habits in marine fauna, which depend entirely on sound for these
aspects of their life. These sound waves can especially injure fish that possess a swim bladder,
destroy the eggs and larvae of aquatic wildlife, as well as causing fish and other marine species to
leave the affected area. A recent review of the scientific literature on the subject suggests that seismic
surveys are the second largest cause of sub-marine noise pollution. In the case of seismic surveys
carried out in the past in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the impacts were never studied scientifically.
Hence, this preliminary step of offshore oil and gas exploration inevitably causes damage to the
marine environment.

Quoting verbatim from a dubious source that cannot be accessed is not good form and surely most thinking people will see through this.  This review of the seismic process was surely prepared by an extremely biased writer.  The writer relies on words like “suggests”, “can” and “indicates” to persuade the reader that the claims are valid when, in fact, they are invalid.  In conclusion MJD’s comment certainly does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Finally, we have the really extreme, apparently “true” comments, that are planted on the OFSKI website which, if repeated sufficiently will surely become an “island myth” and hence a “fact”. There are many but this one by Leeza Irwin “takes the cake”:

I have always been against anything that can and has had a detrimental effect on wildlife and the environment.
I had someone visit Raptor Domain the other day that works for an oil company in the states. He is primarily in charge of seismic testing. He saw my banner about oil free seas and had this to say. Don’t let them do any seismic testing here he has see first hand what it does to the marine life and its not pretty. He said some days as far as the eye can see there is floating dead fish every where, and I’m talking big fish. I asked him if he would go on record and say this, he reply no, because he would loose his job and be in big trouble. He just said keep up the good fight and do whatever it takes to keep them out of our waters. He also had another gentleman with him that backed up everything he said. I am hoping what they had to say is rubbish and they are proven wrong. I see it like this here is two well dressed intelligent middle aged men offering information about their experience. No need to lie or make up stories. He did say he was retiring soon, so could offer assistance when and if required…….

Were these two gentlemen from USA for real? If they were, they were surely referring to the “bad old days” of seismic surveys in which dynamite was used BUT stopped in the late 1960’s, long before whaling stopped (Albany whaling station was closed in 1979).  There is NO way they could be referring to modern day seismic surveys – even the fishing industry would not seriously support the claim and researchers certainly would not.  Furthermore, sea-birds always know where to get a good feed and you don’t see flocks of seabirds following seismic vessels these days.  Thus, one is left to ponder just three explanations: i)were these two gentlemen lying?; ii) were they “plants” from an eNGO?; or iii)were they referring to the “bad old days” of seismic which actually stopped in the late’60’s?

We’ll leave the reader to consider the veracity of these three posts by John Reihart, Michael J Davey and Leeza Irwin and thus consider the misleading tactics utilised by OFKSI on their Facebook page.