Atlantic G&G PEIS Shortcomings: 2014

Summary of Atlantic Geological and Geophysical Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Shortcomings:


  1. The PEIS should be reevaluated in the context of the most up-to-date NOAA Acoustic Guidelines. These guidelines have just recently been reviewed by the public and stakeholders whose comments will need to be addressed in what will become the final NOAA Acoustic Guidelines. As we found many shortcomings with the guidelines we don’t expect the final guidelines to align with the comparisons made in the Atlantic G&G PEIS referencing Southall 2007.[1]
  2. Not enough is known about fish hearing to make the broad assumption that the proposed action alternatives will not either damage physically, or disrupt behaviorally commercially or biologically important fish.
  3. No enough is known about fish hearing to assume that any temporary damage or displacement will not adversely impact individual fishes, or the fitness of any fish species populations.
  4. BOEM statements in “Summary of Fish and Invertebrate Hearing Capabilities” about fish dispersing from a survey area is speculative and should not be implied as a mitigation strategy.
  5. The statement in section that “there is no evidence in fishes for permanent hearing loss” can also as factually be rephrased to “there is no evidence in fishes that permanent hearing loss does not occur.” This is one of many places in the PEIS where statements about the absence of evidence does not perfect the argument for the absence of harm.[2]
  6. Very little is known about impacts of seismic and other survey signals on marine invertebrates. This dearth on knowledge should not be a reason for proceeding under the assumption that there will be no harm to species that – while not protected, may nonetheless be important elements in the trophic fabric of animals that are protected.
  7. Our current state of knowledge about fish and invertebrate responses to chemical, electromagnetic, seismic survey, and other survey signals is very sketchy. The proposed action alternatives should not be used to find out “the hard way” what fish and invertebrates can endure.
  8. Propagation models used in the PEIS Appendix D remain simplistic, only considering cylindrical and hemispherical spreading and only mentioning, but not modeling surface ducting,[3] leaving propagation models used in calculating exclusion zones only speculative.
  9. While ‘convergence zones’ are mentioned in the PEIS there no evidence that this propagation characteristic is used in calculating exposure levels in marine mammals that are well beyond the visual reach of Marine Mammal Observers or even the acoustical reach of passive acoustic monitors.
  10. PEIS Sections and discussion on fuel oil spills should be expanded to include a realistic discussion about fuels that will be used, not just lighter, more volatile, and faster dispersing fuels.
  11. Because survey platforms are increasingly being fitted with various acoustical signal generators, the produced soundfield impacts should be considered in its entirety, not as a composite of individual signals.
  12. Because the complex soundfields produced by survey vessels are a product of many overlapping sounds, the resulting soundfield should be considered as continuous and subject to the 160dB (re:1µPa) mitigation threshold and exclusion zone guidelines.
  13. Thruster-stabilized drilling platforms that used in COST well drilling are not “vessels underway;” rather they are stationary noise sources being used for activities that are under BOEM purview and should be regulated as such.
  14. Finally, precluding regulatory constraints on seismic survey vessels at night because “it is not feasible” is the strongest argument for prohibiting their implementation. Laws and guidelines – regardless of how simplistic, incomplete, or inconvenient are nonetheless a product of many years of research and deliberation by many dedicated, thoughtful, and informed people. Dismissing them for the sake of expediency is both unlawful and sets a dangerous precedent.



[1] “Draft Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammals” OCR Comments (attached to this document).

[2] See Colin Macilwain (2014) “Beware of backroom deals in the name of ‘science’” Nature v.508:7496 on “lack on evidence” being used to substantiate industry arguments of “no harm.”

[3] See: Ivan Tolstoy “Ocean Acoustics: Theory and Experiment in Underwater Sound” p. 181-185 American Institute of Physics.