| October 18, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Brendan Cummings, Attorney (909) 659-6053 x301
More Information: Center's Beaked Whale Page
LAWSUIT FILED TO STOP NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION AND COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SEISMIC RESEARCH IN MEXICO
HIGH INTENSITY AIRGUN BLASTS LINKED TO WHALE DEATHS
IN THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today in federal district court in San Francisco seeking the immediate suspension of high intensity seismic research in the Gulf of California. This research, carried out by the National Science Foundation ("NSF") and Columbia University, has been linked by scientists to the death of whales. The suit claims that the NSF is violating the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and the Marine Mammal Protection Act ("MMPA").
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 an airgun array to fire extremely high
energy acoustic bursts into the water column. The resulting sound from
the airguns has been estimated by some scientists to be as high as 263
decibels at the source. The U.S. Navy considers sounds greater than 180
decibels to be potentially 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.
In response to the Center's request to halt the testing, the NSF and Columbia replied that they would only stop if there was "credible" evidence linking their research to the whales' deaths. Apparently, these institutions do not consider the concerns of some of the world's most knowledgeable marine mammal scientists to be "credible."
"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. "Since the NSF has refused to suspend this dangerous and illegal research voluntarily, we have gone to court to seek an injunction against it."
Further information on the issue, including correspondence with the NSF and a copy of the complaint, can be found at www.biologicaldiversity.org.