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Use of air guns being considered for US oil and gas exploration

The federal government is proposing lifting strict regulations on oil and gas exploration. The exploration would pave the way for the future, as the ban on drilling in the Atlantic Ocean ends in 2017. One of the stricter regulation that may be lifted is for the use of "seismic air guns"; a tool being considered in helping identify the amount of oil and gas available along the East Coast.

Conservationist believe that the loud noise from the huge air guns harm the marine life and even question the country's need to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, but nine companies have already applied for permits to use the devices in helping to determine how much potential fossil fuel could be available.

When towed behind a ship, the seismic air gun can emit blast of compressed air every 10-15 seconds, each pulse as loud as the start of a jet engine. Yet, the sonic pulses create reflected sound waves which be used to map the ocean floor and determine the amount of oil and gas beneath it.

Whales, marine mammals, are among many other aquatic lifeforms that use sound to navigate and are very sensitive to the loud blast created by the air guns.

To reduce the dangers to aquatic life, such as whales and turtles, this sound method would only be employed in certain areas and at certain times when the animals would be some where else (nesting and migration periods).

In addition the ships would be required to have passive sonar technology to spot marine life versus the visual spotting that is used today.

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