Little Blues Found Dead on East Coast | The Jackal

26 Apr 2011

Little Blues Found Dead on East Coast

One Petrel and 13 Dead Little Blues
At least twenty dead Little Blue Penguins have been found on the East Coast within 200 metres of each other. They were found yesterday washed up in Waihau Bay, which is located adjacent to Petrobras’ seismic testing zone. Coincidence? I don’t think so. With no storms that could account for the deaths, DOC is reported to be uninterested and will apparently not investigate.

The fact that the deaths are unprecedented in such large numbers should make DOC and the Government take immediate action. With Seismic testing well documented as being damaging to many species of marine life, including whales, dolphins and seals, it seems we can now include Penguins in that list as well. Seismic exploration off the East Cape has been opposed by many organizations because of the inherent dangers from oil spills. However the facts surrounding the deaths of many marine mammals from seismic testing are just as damning for an industry that shows little regard for the environment.

Facts about the Little Blue Penguin

The Little Blue Penguin, Korora, Fairy Penguin, Eudyptula minor, is also known as the Little Penguin or Blue Penguin, which are all regional variations on its name.

They are the smallest species of penguin 43 cm (17 in) and are mainly found along coastlines of New Zealand and Australia. The head and back of the Little Blue Penguin is indigo blue, while the belly and the underside of the flippers are white. The beak is black and eyes are silvery black. One subspecies has all white flippers.

Little Blues have reduced in numbers since the introduction of Mustelids and other predators as well as the ever-expanding human population. They are not as yet considered endangered from extinction. The Little Blue Penguin is listed on the IUCN Red List with a assessment in 2009 of "least concern". The population trend is not listed.

Little Blues have a very low divorce rate and will usually mate for life. Between May and June the Little Blues prepare their nests for the breeding season. Between August and November a breeding pair will lay 1 or 2 eggs. By around eight weeks of age the chicks are ready to fend for themselves. Little Blues commonly return to breed to a spot very close to where they were hatched and will continue to use the same spot.

Decibels and seismic testing

Sound is measured in frequency (hz) and intensity (decibels). Low frequency sound ranges from 1 to 1000 hz. It is employed in LFA and airgun arrays because of its ability to travel long distances underwater with little diminution. LFA employs frequencies from 100-500 Hz.

The decibel scale is logarithmic: 110 decibels is ten times greater than 100 decibels, 120 decibels is one hundred times greater. In air, sound at 130 decibels will cause permanent hearing loss in human beings in one minute. An F-16 jet fighter 3 feet away from your ear with afterburners blasting emits about 160 decibels.

Because of different properties of air and water, to compare sound pressures from the same source, 26 decibels are subtracted from the level of sound in air to give you the equivalent level of sound in water. Therefore, the source level of LFA underwater, at 240 decibels, is equivalent to 214 decibels of sound in air. This is a level of sound over 100 million times louder than the 130 decibels level at which humans lose the ability to hear forever. There is no doubt that small birds are far more susceptible to noise pollution than humans making the risk from exposure to seismic testing for sea birds far greater.

The seismic array used by the Orient Explorer fires sonic booms into the sea floor at volumes of up to 276 decibels. The pulse occurs around every ten seconds. Reports from the protesters who went into the ocean near the seismic testing vessel to halt its progress say they felt sick from the sonic booms after being in the water for a short period of time.

Facts about Seismic Testing

In the last year, whale deaths believed to be related to noise pollution have occurred off of Baja California, the Canary Islands, and the San Juan Islands. Physical impacts of seismic survey noise on marine mammals are believed to include auditory masking or confusion, temporary hearing loss, brain hemorrhage and death.

The Gulf of Mexico is saturated with oil and gas development. Currently, there are an estimated 4,000 platforms offshore and seismic exploration is expanding into more biologically significant areas. The resident Gulf of Mexico population of sperm whales only numbers 530. There are also 5 other endangered species of great whales that migrate in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lethal Sounds
Narrated by Pierce Brosnan (5 min video).

The ocean is an acoustic environment and many animals rely heavily on sound for their survival. Without their heightened sense of hearing, they cannot find food, avoid predators or communicate with each other. Any excessive noise that permanently damages their hearing will mean they cannot locate food and subsequently starve to death.