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Ocean blasting: Groups seek ban as big Atlantic test looms

SANDY HOOK, N.J. (AP) — It’s been compared to hearing dynamite explode, or standing next to a jet engine.

Seismic surveying involves blasting the ocean floor with sound waves bouncing off the seabed and then recorded by ships. It’s extremely useful in finding deposits of oil and natural gas. But there is concern it can be harmful to marine life, including endangered whales, turtles and dolphins.

With what would be one of the largest tests ever planned for the Atlantic Ocean now being considered by federal officials, two U.S. senators from New Jersey and environmental groups from around the country are trying to ban the practice in the Atlantic Ocean.

Three companies have applied for permits to use seismic surveying, and a fourth would use another sound-based technology to search for oil and gas deposits under the ocean floor between Delaware and Florida. Their main obstacle is a permit authorizing them to harass or harm marine animals while doing the work. The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering the applications.

Environmentalists say the noise and shock waves from the testing can injure or even kill marine animals. The blasting could be nearly continuous, every few seconds around the clock, for a year.

Permit applications from the companies acknowledge the sound waves can disturb marine animals and potentially affect their hearing but doubt any would be killed or even seriously harmed.

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