Seismic testing begins 200 miles off Delaware coast

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Another seismic testing project is under way in the Atlantic Ocean after an equipment problem halted a previous effort off the Jersey coast early this month.

Sound blasts to map the ocean floor are taking place more than 200 miles from the Delaware shoreline.

That has Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey, worried. He’s said it will be difficult to know how the testing will affect marine mammals migrating along the Jersey shore.

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“That’s the problem. It would be hard enough to monitor near-shore animals if they washed up, but animals that far at sea, they’ll never see the land,” he said. “They’ll never be washed up on the Jersey Shore, Delaware, or any others because they’re so far out.”

The shock waves could damage internal organs of ocean animals migrating south from New England or cause disorientation, Schoelkopf said.

The U.S. Geological Survey, which is conducting the testing in cooperation with Rutgers University, said it will monitor the testing area for endangered species. The equipment can be shut down to protect those species, officials said.

The testing may be affected by Tropical Storm Cristobal, Schoelkopf said.

“I’m sure it will,” he said Monday. “This is an ongoing project. It’s not going to be a one-time deal. They’re planning on this for a long period of time to do the entire coastline.

“The storm will probably disrupt them a little bit, but they’ll go back on track and continue working throughout the winter.”

The tests are meant to help researchers learn about long-term threats from sea level rise.

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