The Devil We Don’t Know

Dear readers, I am pleased to announce the publication of the followingpaper in the PLoS ONE journal. The full paper as well as supplementary material can be downloaded from the journal  webpage.

Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Lauriano, G., Pierantonio, N., Cañadas, A., Donovan, G., Panigada, S., 2015. The Devil We Don’t Know: Investigating Habitat and Abundance of Endangered Giant Devil Rays in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. PLoS ONE 10, e0141189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141189
PLoS ONE Mm2015

a small victory for the whales

The US Department of the Interior, after campaigning by Oceana and its allies,  postponed their decision on whether to allow seismic airguns off the Atlantic coast, in an area where marine reserves, fishing grounds, and critical habitats for endangered species occurr. The encompasses more than 300,000 square miles of ocean from Delaware to Florida — an area twice the size of California!

Read more here, here, here and here.

the impacts of Costa Concordia on marine life

The Costa Concordia has risen from the waters “off” the Island of Giglio in the Tuscany Archipelago.

Several questions of extreme importance still need an answer, including those related to the environmental impacts of the “accident”. How does it affected and will affect the surrounding Pelagos marine mammal sanctuary, home to bottlenose dolphins, endangered monk seals, corals and other precious seabed life? An interesting article featuring Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, President of the Tethys Research Institute (amongst the other many things) in Italy, recently published on New Scientist, tries to put some light on the problem.

To read more:

New Scientist Article

An Interview with Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara on “Down to Earth

Debate over seismic air guns should wait until science has spoken

(C) The Washington Post

By , Published: September 5


SEISMIC AIR guns are used to ascertain how much oil and gas lie under certain portions of the ocean floor. They’re towed behind ships that trace grids on the surface of the water, and they shoot blasts of compact air to the bottom of the ocean to track the reflected sounds. The problem is that those underwater blasts, at around 180 decibels, are louder than roaring jet engines, and they might harm ocean mammals, disrupting the feeding and migration patterns of whales, dolphins and other creatures.

In 2010, President Obama cleared the way for opening some 330,000 square miles of ocean off the East Coast, from the Delaware Bay to Florida’s Cape Canaveral, to exploration for oil and gas, of which there’s likely an enormous amount. As The Post’s Lenny Bernstein reported recently, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that there are some 3.3 billion barrels of oil and 3.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the East Coast, and those figures are based on data collected using outdated technology. The use of seismic guns has become a contentious issue among oil companies, conservationists and members of Congress since the Interior Department announced in March 2012 that it planned to allow them in the Atlantic.

In the Gulf of Mexico, a lawsuit over the use of the guns was settled in June with an agreement delaying their use for 30 months while officials further investigate their effects. But that same month, the House approved an amendment proposed by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) to require the BOEM to allow oil companies to test seismic air guns in the Atlantic as early as December. Proponents of the testing insist that the guns will find far more oil off the East Coast than is known to exist. In the gulf, seismic testing in 2011 revealed five times the oil reserves that had been detected by other methods.

Conservationists claim that using the guns off the East Coast would create a “war zone” for whales and dolphins. Some lawmakers, including Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), have complained to Mr. Obama that seismic air gun testing is only the first step toward a full embrace of offshore drilling.

The truth is that the battle is premature. Apart from the studies underway in the Gulf of Mexico, the government is updating its standards on noise levels that aren’t harmful to ocean life. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects to complete them by the end of this year or the beginning of next. The risks of seismic air guns will be clearer then; only when science has spoken should any decision be made on their use off the Atlantic coast.

The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life

A new book was recently released with chapters derived from presentations given at the 2nd International Conference on the Effects of Noise on Marine Life held in Cork, Ireland in 2010.  The book is entitled:


Popper, Arthur N.; Hawkins, Anthony (Eds.). 2012. The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life[within the Series: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Vol. 730], 695 p. (167 illus., 57 in color.  Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-4419-7310-8).