Oil Companies Will Soon Be Firing Sonic Cannons and Killing Marine Life Along Florida's Coast | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Oil Companies Will Soon Be Firing Sonic Cannons and Killing Marine Life Along Florida's Coast

With rising sea levels, Great Whites on the loose, and coral development quickly getting knocked down, there's a lot of trouble brewing out there along the east coast of Florida. Now we can add another to the list: sonic cannons.

Yup, you read that right. These devices are typically used by companies prospecting for oil and gas deposits. And thanks to a recent decision by the Obama administration, energy companies have been given the green light to begin hunting around the East Coast, from Delaware to Florida, for the first time.

The scary part? We have little idea what it's going to do to the already fragile aquatic ecosystems out there.

So: Thanks, Obama.

Oil and gas drilling has been banned along the East Coast since the 1980s. The clock runs out on that moratorium in 2018, and unless the government changes its mind, off-shore production could begin at that time.

According to Florida Today, just last week, the Obama administration issued a decision allowing companies that are thinking about applying for leases then to begin preliminary analysis of where valuable deposits might be located.

Enter the sonic cannons.

These devices are typically dragged around behind a boat, shooting out electronic pulses every ten seconds. The sound bounces back along the sea floor, returning with data that can be crunched into detailed maps showing were energy deposits might be hiding below the ocean floor.

The U.S. Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM) estimates there could be "4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas" along the East Coast, according to Time. Since we'll probably be going to war with Russia soon and the Middle East is the Middle East, it sure would be nice to tap that energy. The sonic cannons are key to seeing where the stuff might be.

Oh, there is one catch: The sonic cannons are 100 times louder than a jet engine. Right now, energy prospectors are using the devices in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. But along the East Coast, including Florida, the BOEM admits the sonic cannons will impact 138,000 animals under the sea.

Environmentalists contend that the cannons could mess with everything from the corral to sea turtles to endangered whales -- at this point, we just don't really know what will happen. Just imagine that next-door neighbor who plays Lil Wayne at full volume all Sunday night, then multiple that by 100 and that's what it'll be like for Florida's aquatic life once the cannons get to work.

The issue is serious enough that Sen. Bill Nelson and other Florida lawmakers sent a concerned letter to the Obama administration. And when an ex-astronaut is worried, well.....