26, Apr, 2011

Seismic Testing Pulps Squid and Octopus – New Evidence

Category: ECO Inc

Spanish research into mass deaths of squid, cuttlefish and octopus has shown that the low frequency sound from seismic testing destroys the organs of these keystone species, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO.

The research by Michel Andre of the Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona, and colleagues in Spain and France (1) showed damage in these creatures after just two hours exposure to low frequency noise from 50-400 hertz, noise described as an “acoustic smog” typical of oil and gas exploration and shipping. The research followed death events of giant squid washed up on Spanish beaches in 2001 and 2003 caused by nearby oil and gas seismic surveys.

“The scientists found that the organ that allows squid, octopus and cuttlefish to regulate their positions, to balance and direct how and where they swim, was damaged leaving the animals unable to move or to feed, and vulnerable to predators,” says Barry Weeber of ECO.

“This research is further reason to be very concerned about seismic surveys in the sea, including those of Petrobras off East Cape and the subject of seaborne protests. Squid, octopus and cuttlefish are keystone species in the marine ecosystem, with lots of other species feeding on them.”

Mr Weeber said this is really bad news, for everyone, including the fishing industry, and adds to the already known damage to whales and dolphins from seismic noise.”

Mr Weeber said this was further evidence that the Government needs to rethink its approach to deep sea oil exploration and development. “The Government has failed to consider the risk to the marine environment from further exploration and oil drilling.”

“The protesters in the flotilla at sea are trying to protect the marine environment. ECO supports them, and calls on the Acting Minister of resources, Hekia Parata, to suspend the permit under which Petrobras is operating.”

ECO notes that the permit appears also to have been issued without the consultation required with Iwi, particularly Te Whānau ā Apanui, under the Petroleum Minerals Programme under the Crown Minerals Act.

“This new research shows that marine animals will be impacted now, it is not just a future risk.

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1. Published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, DOI 10.1890/100124 and reported in New Scientist 16 April 2011; 15.

See Abstract and link to full article at:,5 and see authors and abstract at:


Low-frequency sounds induce acoustic trauma in cephalopods

Michel André1*, , Marta Solé1, Marc Lenoir2, Mercè Durfort3, Carme Quero4, Alex Mas1, Antoni Lombarte5, Mike van der Schaar1, Manel López-Bejar6, Maria Morell1, Serge Zaugg1, and Ludwig Houégnigan1

1 Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics, Technical University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain

2 INSERM U.1051, Institute of Neurosciences of Montpellier, Montpellier, France

3 Department of Cellular Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

4 Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Modelling, IQAC-CSIC, Barcelona, Spain

5 Renewable Marine Resources Department, Marine Sciences Institute (ICM CMIMA-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain

6 Department of Animal Health and Anatomy, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Campus de la UAB, 08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Spain


There is currently relatively little information on how marine organisms process and analyze sound, making assessments about the impacts of artificial sound sources in the marine environment difficult. However, such assessments have become a priority because noise is now considered as a source of pollution that increasingly affects the natural balance of the marine ecosystems. We present the first morphological and ultrastructural evidence of massive acoustic trauma, not compatible with life, in four cephalopod species subjected to low-frequency controlled-exposure experiments. Exposure to low-frequency sounds resulted in permanent and substantial alterations of the sensory hair cells of the statocysts, the structures responsible for the animals' sense of balance and position. These results indicate a need for further environmental regulation of human activities that introduce high-intensity, low-frequency sounds in the world's oceans.

* E-mail: michel.andre@upc.edu

2. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.

3. The only measures currently in place are the Department of Conservation voluntary Guidelines for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations’ which is currently being reviewed. The review has shown that other countries considered – (Australia, Brazil, Canada, US, and the UK) have stronger requirements and there are mandatory requirements. There are no measures in place to deal with the impacts on other marine species.

4. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) recognised at its last meeting that “anthropogenic ocean noise, depending on source and intensity, is a form of pollution, comprised of energy, that may degrade habitat and have adverse effects on marine life ranging from disturbance of communication or group cohesion to injury and mortality”. The CMS urged Governments “to control the impact of emissions of [human]-made noise pollution in habitat of vulnerable species”. Resolution 9.19, Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS (COP 9), 1-5 December 2008, Rome, Italy. New Zealand is a member of the Convention.