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Taking exception What effect will 250 decibels have on marine life off the Central Coast? BY NEW TIMES STAFF

W

hat’s “a little louder than a rock concert” (according to PG&E), is going to cost PG&E ratepayers $64 million, and has detractors threatening to strap themselves to a whale to prevent it, if necessary? If you answered PG&E’s proposed seismic testing, scheduled to take place off the shores of the Central Coast in November, you’d be correct. But even if you happen to know that the California State Lands Commission has already approved the project, and that the California Coastal Commission is slated to either approve or deny the studies in mid-October, you probably still have some questions. Even if you know that the testing will consist of air guns affixed to the back of a research vessel firing into the water and measuring the blasts reflected off the seafloor, you still have questions, like: How will the testing effect the fishing industry in Morro Bay?—a concern that prompted the Morro Bay City Council to condemn the tests. What will blasts reaching up to 250 decibels do to the marine life off the Central Coast? What does the draft environmental assessment released by the National Science Foundation mean when it lists 3,736 Morro Bay harbor porpoises, a species exclusively found locally (among dozens of other species, totaling thousands of marine mammals) as the take for the studies?

By its own admission, the National Science Foundation can’t explain to New Times what “take by harassment” means, which makes the assessment it’s mulling over more alarming than useful. So take the numbers below (pulled directly from the National Science Foundation’s environmental assessment) with a grain of salt—because we can’t tell you what it all means, because we can’t put these staggering numbers in some kind of reasonable context, and because the regulatory agencies required to approve this project seem shockingly comfortable with that fact. Here are the numbers we’ve found, ranging from 11 humpback whales to 3,736 Morro Bay harbor porpoises. We wish we could tell you what it all means. And in the coming weeks, we’ll continue to try. ∆ Send comments to Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach at aschwellenbach@ newtimesslo.com.

California Gray Whale Eschrichtius robustus

78

x10 =

DWarf Sperm Whale -

Kogia sima

=

4

humpbaCk Whale -

Megaptera novaeangliae

11

=


12

blue Whale

=

Balaenoptera musculus

killer Whale -

Orcinus orca

=

6

More to the story

For more information about PG&E’s proposed seismic studies, check out “Given ‘take’?” (New Times, Sept. 20) at newtimesslo. com/news/8350/given-take.

fin Whale -

Balaenoptera physalus

20

x10 =

Short-finneD pilot Whale Globicephala macrothynchus

Sperm Whale -

1

=

Physeter macrocephalus

1

=

TAKES BY HARASSMENT continued page 18


TAKES BY HARASSMENT from page 17

Short-beakeD Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis

lonG-beakeD

Common Dolphin

x11

=

-

Delphinus delphis

66

1,468

x100 =

riSSo’S Dolphin Megaptera novaeangliae

78

x10 = h arbor

porpoiSe

-

Phocoena phoceoena

x100 =

3,736 HARASSMENT continued page 19


TAKES BY HARASSMENT from page 18

bottlenoSe

Dolphin

-

Tursiops truncatus

1,324

x 10 =

StripeD

Dolphin

-

Stenella coeruleoalba

7

=

paCifiC

WhiteSiDeD Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obliquidens

152

x10 =

Dall’S

porpoiSe

-

Phocoenoids dalli

x10

=

65

HARASSMENT continued page 20


TAKES BY HARASSMENT from page 19

bairD’S

beakeD Whale

-

Beradius bairdii

2

=

Small beakeD Whale -

=

Ziphius cavirostris

7

northern

riGht Whale Dolphin Lissodelphis borealis

California

Sea lion

-

x10 Zalophus califorianus

91

=

849

x100 =

paCifiC

harbor Seal Phoca vitulina rishardsi

x10

61

=

Southern

Sea otter

-

x100

=

Enhydra lutris nereis

1,188


Seismic Testing In San Luis Obispo County