MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Researchers in the East have found a surprising link between seismic testing and local fish populations.
“When you think about seismic surveying, you often think about how it can negatively impact marine mammals such as whales, and we wondered what about the fish,” said Avery Paxton, a marine ecologist at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences and one of the study’s authors.
Researchers monitored a reef off the North Carolina coast before and during seismic surveying. The practice uses sound waves as loud as the jet engine on an airplane to determine if oil or gas lie beneath the ocean floor.
“What we found when we monitored fish on a reef off the coast of North Carolina is that there was a 78% decline in the number of fish on a reef during seismic surveying,” said Paxton. “So many fisherman and women and divers and others whose livelihoods are dependent on coastal tourism and the health of these reefs could be impacted.”
One of those impacted is local fisherman Jack Cox. He’s seen first-hand the impact seismic surveying has on fish.
“Our fishing drops off,” said Cox, who also owns the Blue Oyster Seafood Market in Morehead City. “It does something that we just don’t catch fish. And not just for a little while but at least for a day.”
Cox hopes local leaders are paying attention.
“I hope they take their time, do a lot of studies on it, and be very cautious about the approach we’re taking in looking for energy,” added Cox.
Paxton says the next step is to research just how long those fish stay away from their home reefs.