| October 15, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Brendan Cummings, Attorney (909) 659-6053 x301
More Information: Beaked Whale
CONSERVATIONISTS CALL ON NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION AND COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY TO HALT SEISMIC RESEARCH IN MEXICO
HIGH INTENSITY AIRGUN BLASTS LINKED TO WHALE DEATHS
IN THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA
The Center for Biological Diversity and other concerned organizations and individuals today called upon the National Science Foundation ("NSF") and Columbia University to immediately suspend ongoing research operations in the Gulf of California that scientists have linked to the death of whales.
The R/V Maurice Ewing is an NSF owned research vessel
operated by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
The vessel is currently engaged in an NSF funded research project to explore
the continental rifting zone in the Gulf of California. This research
is scheduled to continue until November 4, 2002. The research involves
the R/V Maurice Ewing's use of its 20 airgun array to fire extremely high
energy acoustic bursts into the water column. The resulting sound from
the airguns is well over 220 decibels at the source, a level known to
be harmful to marine mammals
The NMFS scientists determined that the nearby operations of the R/V Maurice Ewing were a likely cause of the stranding event. Airgun use by the vessel was briefly discontinued but resumed last week. The research project has not been subject to any environmental review as required by law. Neither the NSF nor Columbia has applied for or received permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered Species Act.
"It's unfortunate that two such renowned institutions as the NSF and Columbia University would display such arrogance as to assume their research is above the law," said Brendan Cummings, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "We are asking them to suspend the research project until they have complied with all applicable law and demonstrated that the project poses no further risk to any of the marine life of the Gulf of California."
If the NSF and Columbia do not voluntarily suspend the research project, the Center will likely seek relief in federal court. Further information on the issue can be found at www.biologicaldiversity.org.