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Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 12:30pm

Activists Protest Seismic Testing

Environmental activists say whales, dolphins and sea turtles are all at risk from proposed seismic airgun tests on the South Atlantic coast.

Their protests come as the Obama administration officials consider allowing the tests for oil exploration.

A coalition of advocates gathered downtown in Savannah Tuesday to compare seismic testing to some of the loudest sounds imaginable.

Katie Parrish of the group Oceana says using noise to search for oil is -- for marine life --like a jet plane flying overhead constantly for months at a time.

"Seismic airgun testing is how the oil industry finds deep pockets of oil deep in the sea floor, more than a mile down there," Parrish says. "It sends very loud blasts of compressed air into the sea floor that will bounce back up and create a map of where these pockets of oil lie."

Dave Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast says, it can disrupt animal feeding patterns and damage their hearing.

"Using this destructive exploration method will work against the interest of the coast of Georgia by destroying marine mammals," says Kyler.

Officials at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acknowledge the tests could have "moderate" impacts on marine life.

But they say the affects can be mitigated with reasonable restrictions, like barring tests in certain areas.

The agency is expected to make a decision on the tests early next year.