Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

At 598 meters (1,962 ft) below the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, ROV Hercules encountered a magnificent sperm whale. The whale circled Hercules several times and gave our cameras the chance to capture some incredible footage of this beautiful creature. Encounters between sperm whales and ROV's are quite rare. (Photo: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Close Encounter with Majestic Sperm Whale Should Inspire Action

Jaime McClain

After exclaiming “What the heck is that?!” a chorus of “wow’s” erupted as scientists realized a sperm whale was paying a visit to their ROV during a deep-sea dive. Though the scientists are on a six-month long expedition at sea, they still marveled at their unexpected guest as it swam near a remote camera on Tuesday. Sperm whales, which can average a whopping 52 feet in length, are currently listed as a vulnerable species, making the encounter rare. With over 142,000 views, many people on Facebook and Twitter agree the sperm whale was a sight to behold. Videos like this delight on social media. Whether a rare deep-sea encounter or home video of the large mammals nearly toppling startled kayakers, whales continue to capture our attention. Despite the outpouring of enthusiasm, whales are currently facing a serious threat from humans.

The U.S. Department of the Interior is considering allowing geophysical companies, working on behalf of the oil and gas industry, to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. Seismic blasting releases bursts of compressed air to locate oil and gas deposits deep beneath the ocean floor. These dynamite-like blasts occur every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks and even months on end. The resulting noise represents a significant threat to marine life in the proposed region, which spans an area twice the size of California, from Delaware to Florida.

In a recent letter to President Obama, 75 leading marine scientists urged him to reject allowing seismic blasting to occur in the Atlantic. The scientists explained seismic testing has been shown to disrupt activities essential to feeding and reproduction over vast ocean areas for blue and other endangered whales.  Additionally, these blasts can increase the risk of calves being separated from their mothers, the effects of which can be lethal, and, over time, cause chronic behavioral and physiological stress, suppressing reproduction and increasing mortality and morbidity. Whales are not the only marine life that would be affected by seismic testing. Dolphins, turtles, and commercially valuable fish species could also see disastrous repercussions from the intrusive blasts.

Opening the U.S. East Coast to seismic airgun exploration for oil and gas development poses an unacceptable risk of serious harm to marine life. According to government estimates, 138,000 marine mammals such as sperm whales, and dolphins could soon be injured and some even possibly killed if these blasts happen. Seismic blasting in the Atlantic is the first major step toward offshore drilling, which further harms the marine environment through habitual leaks, oil spills, habitat destruction and carbon pollution.

While we marvel and share the most recent video of the majestic whale encounter, we must also consider how we can save these amazing creatures. Unless action is taken, seismic blasting is expected to occur on the U.S. East Coast as early as this summer. By adding your name to an online petition, you can help to protect whales and our oceans by telling the government to prevent seismic blasting. Saving the whales will not only ensure a healthy ocean for years to come, but also plenty more “wow” moments for us to enjoy.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Jaime McClain

Jaime McClain is a Campaigns Communications intern at Oceana.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·

'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·

With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·

Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·