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UpstreamOnline: Judge blocks whale ruling

By Upstream staff

A federal judge in Alaska has blocked a new government rule aimed at shielding bowhead whales from noise associated with ConocoPhillips’ seismic exploration in remote Arctic waters.

US District Judge Ralph Beistline said that ConocoPhillips had raised enough questions about whether the new rule is needed or would be effective and that it would pose enough hardship to the company to warrant that its implementation be delayed.

The rule issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service requires that any seismic work emitting noise over 120 decibels be stopped when four or more mother-calf pairs of bowhead whales are present, reported Reuters.

ConocoPhillips is one of three companies with permits to conduct seismic tests in the Chukchi Sea. Shell and GX Technology also have permits to conduct seismic tests in the Chukchi this summer and fall.

National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman Connie Barclay said: “We’re trying to digest what the judge has said and what this means for us.”

Environmental advocates called it a major setback for the noise-sensitive whales, which migrate through the Beaufort and Chukchi in the summer and autumn, the same seasons when the oil explorers will be using sonic devices in the water.

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