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Seismic blasts could harm BC marine life: Ecojustice

A Canadian environmental law firm filed a suit today to halt the potential of seismic blasting in a marine protected area that the group says would violate Canadian environmental law.

“A marine protected area is a marine protected area because its supposed to be off limits to harmful activity. And its just completely inappropriate that intrusive or harmful research would happen there,” said Ecojustice lawyer, Lara Tessaro.

The U.S. research vessel requesting entry to Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents, a marine protected habitat off the BC coast, would conduct seismic testing for about a month to study how the area was formed tectonically.

According to Ecojustice, the seismic blasts at 180 decibels every 2 or 3 minutes would cause intense acoustic disturbance for the marine animals in the area, most specifically the blue whales in the area.

Tessaro said that such disturbance could cause temporary or even permanent hearing loss to an animal that relies on its hearing as much as humans rely on sight. She said such loss could alter the behavior of whales’ eating and communication patterns, and could even cause whales to flee the area, the first marine protected area under the Oceans Act, entirely.

“That, for an endangered whale, could be serious,” said Tessaro.

If approved for entry, the research vessel could enter Canadian waters sometime this month.

Because the matter is under litigation the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not providing any comment at this time.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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