Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham (S.C.) blasted an air horn at a recent hearing to demonstrate how “disruptive” seismic air gun testing can be for marine animals.
In footage of a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing Thursday, Cunningham pulled out an air horn, blasted the device and asked Chris Oliver, the assistant administrator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, whether he found the sound to be disruptive.
“Was that disruptive, Mr. Oliver?” Cunningham asked.
“It was irritating, but I didn’t find it particularly disruptive,” Oliver responded.
“What about every, say, 10 seconds like seismic air gun blasting goes on for for days, weeks, months?” Cunningham continued.
“If I were that close to it, yeah, probably,” Oliver said.
“What if you depended on sound for hunting your food and for communication? Do you think it would be disruptive?” Cunningham continued.
“At a distance of 20 feet, yes, it would be” Oliver said.
That’s when the congressman asked Oliver how much louder than the air horn he thinks seismic air gun blasting is.
“I honestly don’t know,” Oliver replied.
After a brief back-and-forth between the two, Cunningham said, “What if I were to tell you its 16,000 times louder than what you just heard here?”
“Do you see how that would be impactful on marine species and mammals?” he continued.
“I do,” Oliver responded, “which is why we put mitigation measures in to minimize the proximity of that activity.”
According to The Washington Post, the NOAA gave five companies permission to conduct such tests, which many have said could prove harmful to marine life, specifically North Atlantic right whales, in 2018.
Five companies are also reportedly awaiting final permits from the Interior Department to start such testing between Florida and New Jersey.
Although Democrats are against the testing, many Republicans support the practice, and the administration’s argument is that there is no evidence such testing has killed or seriously injured a marine animal.