Viewpoint: Diablo seismic study would damage marine life

April 18, 2012 

  • Public sessions

    The State Lands Commission is holding two public sessions Thursday to take public testimony on PG&E’s application to conduct high-energy, offshore seismic mapping. The sessions will be at 2 and 6 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.

There is a very serious threat to our fisheries and all marine mammal life looming in the very near future courtesy of PG&E.

In order to renew its operating license for Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, PG&E is required to perform a seismic study off the Central Coast. According to the Environmental Impact Report dated March 16, the seismic study area mapped out is from above Cambria to below Guadalupe. In fishing terms, from San Simeon to Point Sal.

The basic facts of the seismic survey are: PG&E plans to run a ship that to my understanding is more than 200 feet long towing six cables. These cables have air guns attached that will blast every 30 seconds. This seismic study is to last 82 days running seven days a week, 24 hours a day, not taking into account bad weather and marine mammal sightings. It is a federal law that marine mammals may not be disturbed or harmed in any way. A study of this magnitude has never been done before.

The commercial fishermen of Morro Bay and Port San Luis have a list of concerns:

1. The survey will be conducted in Marine Protected Areas and Rock Cod Recovery Zones. These are essential fish habitat where no commercial fishing is allowed by law. Yet PG&E plans to test in these areas.

2. The environmental impact report is based on 1980s low-energy seismic testing done for oil surveys. In the ’80s, marine life was affected for three years. This 1980s test was done at a much lower decibel level with only one cable. One fisherman, a commercial diver at the time, recalls being forced out of the water 10 miles away from the sound. (Sound travels 10 times further underwater.)

3. The environmental impact report seems to be flawed, using incorrect blocks or landing areas for commercial fishing as well as dated economic data for our commercial fishing seasons and landings.

4. The environmental impact report states that the air guns should only create a temporary hearing loss to fish and marine mammals. We feel this is incorrect. Fish have ear bones that can be easily shattered, and this would devastate shallow area rock fish. Recovery time was based on East Coast species, not West Coast species.

5. Larvae and fish eggs will be severely damaged or destroyed by this study.

If this study goes on as planned, there will be serious damage to our local economy from money lost from the study’s effects on commercial fishing, sport fishing and whale and marine mammal watching. PG&E seems to be unresponsive to negotiations in regards to mitigation of damages.

Please, if you care about our coastal environment, our marine mammals and our coastal economy, attend the public hearing Thursday. Please let our Board of Supervisors and other elected officials know that this seismic study is not OK.

Lori French is a longtime commercial fisherman’s wife, Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce director, Morro Bay Harbor Festival director, Central Coast Women for Fisheries past director, Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman’s Organization past director and the Founder of The Faces of California Fishing Education and Outreach Program. She wrote this on behalf of the commercial fishermen of Morro Bay and Port San Luis.

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