ESR prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00968

Critical information gaps remain in understanding impacts of industrial seismic surveys on marine vertebrates

B. W. Elliott*, A. J. Read, B. J. Godley, S. E. Nelms, D. P. Nowacek

*Email: elliott.brianna@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic noise is increasing throughout the world’s oceans. One major contributor is industrial seismic surveys—a process typically undertaken to locate and estimate the quantity of oil and gas deposits beneath the seafloor—which, in recent years, has increased in magnitude and scope in some regions. Regulators permit this activity despite widespread uncertainties regarding the potential ecological impacts of seismic surveys and gaps in baseline information on some key species of conservation concern. Research to date suggests that impacts vary, from displacement to direct mortality, but these effects remain poorly understood for most species. Here, we summarize potential effects of seismic surveys, describe key knowledge gaps, and recommend broad-scale research priorities for 3 impacted taxonomic groups: fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles. We also suggest further technological advances, improved mitigation measures, and better policy and management structures to minimize the ecological impacts of seismic surveys in light of scientific uncertainty.