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Dolphins Dying by the Thousands in Peru – Seismic Surveys by Oil Companies and Pollution Suspected

Candace Calloway Whiting - SeattlePI

 Filmmaker and author Hardy Jones and his crew had to stop counting the dead dolphins that were scattered along the Peruvian beach when the number reached 615.  The incoming tide made it impossible to continue a task that must have been heartbreaking and exhausting – yet nothing short of a relentless tide or total darkness would have gotten in the way of this man.  In a career that has stretched over 30 years, Jones has been a voice for dolphins worldwide, and has taken his message to the world through his films and book.  He battles a form of cancer that would render most of us content to spend our days puttering in our gardens.  He has faced the brutal dolphin hunters in Taiji, and filmed the slaughter of the animals he loves.

So when he was informed of the mass dolphin deaths he did not hesitate to travel from his home in Florida to the remote shores of Peru, and soon found himself counting the endless procession of dolphin carcasses, photographing and filming the scene while scientists took samples and tried to establish the cause.

The first message he was able to send and post on the Blue Voice website read:

I arrived here yesterday, Tuesday 3/28. In that one day we found 615 dead dolphins on 135 kilometers of beach north of San Jose, Peru. This tragedy is unspeakable. BlueVoice is working with Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos of ORCA Peru. Tissue samples have been obtained and will be analyzed. Never heard of this level of UME [Unusual Mortality Event].

Via capture, Cape Cod Stranding.

Dolphins worldwide are struggling with the consequences of pollution, and Jones, working with Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos of the Peruvian-based marine mammal rescue organization ORCA has discovered a link between the consumption of the dolphins’ meat with the presence of diabetes in humans, an appalling demonstration of the level of toxicity in dolphins.  If people continue to eat the flesh from marine mammals they may also be increasing their own chances of an early death, and world health organizations need to step in to protect the unwitting victims of this practice.

From Eating Dolphin Meat Linked to Diabetes Epidemic in Peru:

It has long been known that Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are estrogen-imitators and endocrine disruptors. More recently it has been shown that in humans a high body burden of these chemicals causes insulin resistance and can lead to diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Yaipen Llanos has found that diabetes appears especially prevalent among those who eat the meat of dolphins. It is illegal to hunt dolphins in Peru but it is done with impunity and the practice appears to be growing.

The recent uptick in dolphin deaths is also correlated with oil exploration off Peru’s coasts, a serious double whammy for cetacean populations.

The human need and greed for oil has again started a rush to tap Peru’s sources of fossil fuels, and the techniques to locate oil fields under the oceans can be damaging or lethal to ocean life.  Included in these techniques are seismic surveys which destroy the hearing and navigation abilities of cetaceans.

(Courtesy of Cloudera)

Airgun. The marine airgun is the most widely used energy source for offshore seismic exploration. Airguns produce high levels of predominantly low frequency sound by releasing controlled volumes of high pressure air into the water creating an oscillating bubble which produces 90 per cent of its energy in the band 70 to 140 Hz

To increase the power and focus the low frequencies downward, individual airguns are deployed as an array that is towed behind a vessel.

The energy propagates in three dimensions as a series of lobes defined by the array geometry, tow depth, and interaction of each array element. The seismic source utilizes the air-water interface to reflect the wave-front downwards thus improving the overall efficiency.

The dead dolphins that were found in this general area.The area around Block Z34 (above, right) and to the south is where hundreds to thousands of dead dolphins have been found, and is an area of active oil exploration.

Areas in Peru where oil and gas explorations are permitted.

This story is vital on many levels – the tragic loss of so many dolphins and porpoises, the planned plunder of much of Peru’s land and coasts, and the coming impact to an ancient culture are all at odds with powerful corporate strategies.

A second hydrocarbon boom threatens the Peruvian Amazon: trends, projections, and policy implications

We show that an unprecedented 48.6% of the Peruvian Amazon has been recently covered by oil and gas concessions, up from just 7.1% in 2003. These oil and gas concessions overlap 17.1% of the Peruvian Amazon protected area system and over half of all titled indigenous lands. Moreover, we found that up to 72% of the Peruvian Amazon has been zoned for hydrocarbon activities (concessions plus technical evaluation agreements and proposed concessions) in the past two years, and over 84% at some point during the past 40 years. We project that the recent rapid proliferation of hydrocarbon zones will lead to a second exploration boom, characterized by over 20 000 km of new seismic testing and construction of over 180 new exploratory wells in remote, intact, and sensitive forest areas.

Courtesy Amazon Watch

The indigenous people of Peru are locked in a struggle to protect their way of life from planned dams, mines, pipelines, and oil fields.  The conservation organization, Amazon Watch reports:

Meanwhile, as the debate over consultation rages on, the Asháninka and Awajún face the prospect of at least 20 dams planned for the Marañon River alone, making the hotly debated particulars of the law a matter of life and death. Likewise, in the Andean north, the massive $4 billion Conga mine project remains at a standstill over similar concerns. The U.S. company Newmont Mining’s gold and copper mine near Cajamarca would destroy alpine lakes and wetlands above several watersheds that eventually drain to the Amazon River. Residents say they were not properly consulted – they did not have enough time or technical expertise to analyze the project or fully participate in the process that led to the project’s approval by the Peruvian government of former President Alan Garcia in 2010.

Echoing AIDESEP, Peru’s Defensoria del Pueblo has also asked the PCM for more time for the parties to decide. Last month the agency reported that of some 228 social conflicts in Peru, more than half involved natural resources.

As it is, says Amazon expert Rumrill, the consultation law “contains elements introduced in the companies’ interests at the expense of the indigenous peoples.”

Offshore magazine recently carried this article:

March 2012 HOUSTON – Oil production from BPZ Energy’s Corvina and Albacora fields offshore Peru has been averaging around 3,920 b/d.

A new 3D seismic survey has been under way for a month on offshore block Z-1, and should be completed during 2Q 2012, followed by a period of processing and interpretation. The aim is to improve understanding of the geology of both fields, and to better define other prospects on the block for future exploration.

Work continues on the new CX-15 platform, with installation on Corvina scheduled for 3Q 2012. The CX-15 drilling program will target development of 23 MMbbl of reserves.

Also at Corvina, an expanded workover program to implement a gas cap reinjection program has brought positive results – the aim was to counter steep production declines.

In January, production was restored from the Albacora A-14XD well. The Albacora platform now has all necessary equipment installed for reinjection of gas and water. Tie-ins have been completed, the equipment has been tested, and BPZ is working to obtain the environmental permit to commission the equipment.

In the meantime, the company has secured an extension of flaring permits from the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines to continue well production at Albacora.

And this one is from Oil Voice, last July:

On 4th July, 2011 Gold Oil signed a definitive agreement with BGP Geoexplorer PTE Ltd for the acquisition of a marine 3D seismic survey over Block Z34 offshore Peru. The survey has been extended and is now planned to be in excess of 800 sq km over both the southern and northern part of the licence area. This survey comprises the first phase of 3D seismic over the licence. Depending on the results of the seismic interpretation further seismic may be required, particularly in the northern area, to evaluate completely this large and highly prospective block.

The vessel, the “BGP Pioneer”, departed the port of Paita, north west Peru on 6th July having met all customs clearances and commenced operations on 9th July 2011. Given the expanded scope of the survey, data acquisition is now expected to take approximately 50 days. Following the acquisition of the survey, processing and initial interpretation is expected to take a further four months. Preliminary results and the marketing of the asset to potential farm in candidates is likely, therefore, to commence towards the end of the year.
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Posted Date: 
12 February 2013