New Jersey Scuba Diving
To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - Printable Version

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To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - njdiver - 06-02-2015

The New Jersey Council of Diving Clubs (NJCDC) tried to discover what would be a safe distance underwater for sport divers from the Marine Geophysical Survey’s or Seismic Survey’s operating area off Barnegat Inlet scheduled to occur from June to August 2015 and ran into some confusing information.

There is very limited research1 available regarding sport diver safety and distance from seismic testing. Most of the research we found suggested a safe Sound Pressure Level for sport divers of about 145 decibels (dB) referenced (re) to 1 microPascal (µPa). The NJCDC suggests sport divers add a safety factor and stay at this more conservative 145 dB re 1 µPa level at a distance of ~14 kilometers (8.6 miles, 7.5 nautical miles) from the boundaries of the survey area. The assumption is that all divers are wearing a wetsuit hood and a full dry or wetsuit (added safety).
Decibel level in water has a different measurement than in air! “Confusion arises because relative intensities in water are referenced to 1 microPascal whereas sound waves in air are referenced to 20 microPascals. Therefore, relative sound intensity given in dB in water are not the same as relative sound intensities given in dB in air.”2 For example, a dB level of 145 would not be safe in air while considered acceptable underwater. You can go to <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> for a more complete explanation.

Columbia University, Office of Marine Operations, Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory has been willing to work with the sport diving community and agrees with us and supports a safe level for sport divers at 145 dB re 1 µPa at a minimum distance of ~14 kilometers (8.6 miles, 7.5 nautical miles) from their survey area in their Final Environmental Assessment3.

The coordinates we received for the survey area make a narrow rectangle that starts about 15 miles out of Barnegat Inlet to about 50 miles. We requested the coordinates be in DGPS (GPS) as all dive boats use GPS for navigation.


NW Corner
39 43.12’ N, 73 41.00’ W

SW Corner
39 38.00’ N, 73 44.36’ W

NE Corner
39 25.30’ N, 73 06.12’ W

SE Corner
39 20.06’ N, 73 10.06’ W

As reported by survey staff, the Lillian Wreck is within the survey area and should be avoided during their operations as the dB level would be dangerous. The NJCDC does not have reliable numbers on the Lillian. The South Ridge Wreck is approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles, 6.5 nautical miles) from the inshore edge of the survey area. The East Ridge Wreck is approximately 14 kilometers (8.6 miles, 7.5 nautical miles) and the Sea Hag (North Ridge Wreck) approximately 16 kilometers (10 miles, 8.8 nautical miles) based on our imperfect plotting. There is always the possibility that other dive boats Captains have dive sites that are closer to the survey area. Your plotter or GPS should be able to tell you the distance to the corners of the survey rectangle. Charts for the seismic survey area can be found in the Final Environmental Assessment3 on pages 4 and 35.

We have been informed that the survey is scheduled for ~36 days, is expected to start about June 1st and should complete by early July, barring unforeseen problems such as weather or mechanical issues with the vessel. Remember that the survey vessel travels at an average of 4.5 knots and could be at the far end of the survey area at the start of your dive and a lot closer later near the end of your dive. Disclaimer – the NJCDC does not claim to be an expert on this issue and is merely reporting what we were told and the results of our research. You will have to make the decision what is a safe distance! This is a first for this issue in our area and except for the help from Columbia University, no government or other agency has taken responsibility for warning divers or seemed to have any idea of a safe distance.

Here are excerpts and website URLs from our research:


Recreational divers and swimmers

Frequency range 100 – 500 Hz 501 – 2500 Hz
SPL (dB re. 1 Pa) 145 155

Parvin S J, Cudahy E A and Fothergill D M. “Guidance for diver exposure to underwater sound in the frequency range from 500 to 2500 Hz. Proceedings of Undersea Defence Technology, La Spezia, Italy, 2002.

Tolerance Levels

Summary of minimum SPL causing termination of (dive) underwater sound signals in bareheaded divers.

SPL dB re.1 μPa Effect 100 to 500 Hz
184 + Based on animal models liver haemorrhage and soft tissue damage are likely.
170+ Tolerance limit for divers and swimmers. Sound causes lung and body vibration.
148 -157 The loudness and vibration levels become increasingly aversive. Some divers will contemplate aborting an open water dive.
140 -148 A small number of divers rate the sound as ‘very severe’.
136 -140 The sound is clearly audible. The majority of divers tolerate the sound well with only “Slight” aversion.
130 Divers and swimmers able to detect body vibration
80 -100 Auditory Threshold

SPL = Sound Pressure Level
~ = Approximately
re = Referenced

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Re: To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - njdiver - 06-05-2015

June 5, 2015

Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Bob Considine (609) 292-2994
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795



(15/P54) TRENTON - The Christie Administration today filed a complaint in U.S. District
Court arguing that a federally funded research project using strong seismic blasts to map
ocean sediment deposits should be stopped because it will adversely impact economically
vital commercial and recreational fisheries and harm marine mammals.

The complaint filed by the Attorney General's Office this morning in U.S. District Court
in Trenton argues the project violates federal laws protecting marine animals and
requests the National Science Foundation (NSF) to perform an area-specific environmental
impact study before proceeding any further.

Rutgers University, the NSF's contractor, launched the project this week, despite
objections from Governor Christie, state and federal lawmakers, and advocacy groups.

"We are not going to give up this fight," Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin said. "It is extremely disappointing that
the federal government is moving ahead with this misguided project despite widespread
objection from all quarters and without regard to the negative impacts on New Jersey.

"Starting the project now, with the summer tourism and fishing seasons shifting
into full gear, is simply wrong," Commissioner Martin added. "We must take no
chances when it comes to protecting our ocean resources, our commercial and recreational
fishing industries, and our state's $42 billion tourism economy, which depends heavily on
the shore."

The State's action today follows a letter Commissioner Martin sent this week to NSF
Director Dr. France A. Córdova "strongly condemning" the project and asserting
that the "timing of the study callously disregards the welfare of our coastal
resources and all of the people whose jobs depend on the health of those resources."

Commercial and recreational fishing support about $1 billion in revenues in New Jersey.
The testing is being done in federal waters in a 230-square-mile area southeast of Long
Beach Island, an area well-established for fishing. Among the many species of fish that
are available off the Jersey coast in the summer are bluefish, black sea bass, summer
flounder, black drum, herring and mackerel.

Those who have publicly expressed strong opposition to the project include U.S. Senator
Cory Booker, U.S., Representative Frank Pallone, State Senate President Stephen M.
Sweeney, Clean Ocean Action, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, the Recreational Fishing
Alliance, the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

"Clean Ocean Action is shocked and disappointed at the lack of concern the
geological community has shown toward the living marine resources," said Cindy Zipf,
the environmental group's Executive Director. "At the same time, it is inspiring to
see the incredible outpouring of support including federal, state, and local elected
officials, the fishing community, and all citizens in defense of the ocean's marine life.
This indeed is a powerful statement about the importance of the ocean to New

"The testing could not come at a worse time of year for recreational fishermen,
commercial fishermen and bait and tackle shops that depend on the summer fishing season
for their livelihood," said Paul Turi, corresponding secretary for the Jersey Coast
Anglers Association. "The JCAA and its member clubs see no justifiable value for
this study. We believe the potential negative effects far outweigh any potential positive

Bob Schoelkopf, Executive Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine,
said the testing could result in deaths of dolphins and whales by disrupting feeding
patterns. The waters off New Jersey provide prime birthing areas for bottlenose dolphins
over the summer, Schoelkopf said. Humpback whales are also migrating from birthing areas
off the Dominican Republic to North Atlantic waters.

"Both species rely heavily on being able to prey on tightly bunched schools of
fish," Schoelkopf said. "Seismic testing disperses these schools and disrupts
marine mammals' sonar needed to track prey."

The DEP provided the NSF with peer-reviewed studies that show that underwater seismic
blasts cause fish to move out of areas where this type of testing is done, causing shifts
in distribution and declines in numbers of fish that can be caught, and may even cause
immediate mortality.

Rutgers is conducting seismic ocean blasting tests to examine changes in layers of
deep-sea sediments. The project is taking place in waters 18 to 45 miles southeast of
Barnegat Inlet.
The process involves repeated underwater blasts of compressed air that can generate up to
250 decibels. In comparison, a jet engine generates about 160 decibels.

The U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals last year ruled against the State
in its efforts seeking an injunction to block the work, which was initially scheduled to
take place last summer. The project did not move forward at that time due to mechanical
problems with the research vessel.

For a copy of the State's complaint, please visit:

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For a copy of the letter to the National Science Foundation, please visit:

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Re: To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - njdiver - 06-09-2015

After a full week of operations the Marine Geophysical Survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth is finally listed in the 23rd week’s publication:

U.S. Department
of Homeland Security
United States
Coast Guard


District: 5 Week: 23/15



Mariners are advised that the research vessel MARCUS G. LANGSETH will be conducting a scientific seismic survey in the Atlantic Ocean, bounded by 39-36N 73-42W, 39-42N 73-38W, 39-27N 73-09W, and 39-22N 73-13W, near Long Beach, NJ from June 1 until July 6, 2015. The vessel will be limited in ability to maneuver. There will be instrumentation extending up to 2 nautical miles from the vessel stern and 270 yards on both port and starboard of the vessel and will
be operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the duration of the project. The vessel can be contacted on VHF Channel 13 or 16. Mariners are urged to use caution when transiting the area. If you have any questions regarding the contents of this bulletin, please contact the Waterways Management staff at (215) 271-4814 or the Situation Unit Controller at (215) 271-4807.

Chart 12300 LNM: 20/15


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Re: To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - njdiver - 06-22-2015

With permission:

Posted by Captain Jim on 6/21/2015, 11:49 am, in reply to

Re: To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info

We headed out to the Resor on Saturday. As we were tying in I heard the security call from the Marcus Langseth which is the ship that is doing the seismic surveying out of the Barnegat inlet.

According to their GPS position they were about 15 miles away from us. Not knowing their heading, I called them on the radio and found out that they were not going any closer to our location.

I gave the divers the heads up that there were doing the seismic blasting and that if they felt any discomfort to surface immediately. It was nice to see that no one returned to the boat and completed their dives.

After asking everyone on the boat if they heard any pinging, most of them reported that they did indeed heard the pinging which sounded more like the drumming of a large container ship. One diver said they could feel the sound wave bounce off of the wreck.

So as long as the Marcus Langseth stays in the area they are supposed to, it should not pose divers much trouble. We just need to make sure we do not get our divers to close to their operations.
Captain Jim Wilson

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Re: To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - njdiver - 07-02-2015

Fishing groups ask court to halt N.J. ocean seismic testing

JULY 1, 2015, 1:22 PM LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2015, 1:38 PM


POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Five fishing groups asked a federal court to stop scientists from blasting the ocean floor with sound waves, arguing their research is disturbing marine life off the New Jersey coast by exposing animals to noise comparable to a space shuttle launch or a nuclear bomb.

The lawsuit filed Friday seeks a halt to the program being carried out by Rutgers University, the University of Texas and the National Science Foundation.

The project uses sound waves to study sediment on the ocean floor dating back 60 million years to see how sea level rise has changed the coastline.

"It shows the arrogance of scientists," said Tom Foote, an official with the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, one of the groups that brought the lawsuit. "There's no need to do it this time of year, but because it's convenient for them, they're doing it when the fish are here."

The researchers say they take extensive steps to prevent disturbing marine life, and that the benefits of the study could help coastal towns better plan for and protect against storms. The findings could be used to help make decisions on where to elevate houses, build protective barriers, relocate critical infrastructure or retreat from certain spots.

"We're collecting data in full compliance with laws that protect marine life," said Gregory Mountain, the lead researcher. "When analyzed, our
results will provide the factual basis for understanding and preparing for the impact of sea-level rise on coastlines."

He did not say how much of the study, which began on June 1, remains to be completed.

Environmentalists say such research has a history of harming marine life, which can become disoriented or stressed from the noise.

The lawsuit, separate from one filed by the state Environmental Protection Department, says the gear used in the survey generates blasts of over 200 decibels — louder than a space shuttle launch and only slightly less noisy than an atomic bomb detonation 250 feet from the blast site.

It asserts "the survey is irreparably harming the aquatic life" off Long Beach Island.

The other plaintiffs are the Recreational Fishing Alliance; The Fishermen's' Dock Cooperative; the Garden State Seafood Association; and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

The researchers actually tried to do the work last summer, but were thwarted by a mechanical breakdown that forced postponement of the study until this summer. A lawsuit by the state filed last year trying to block the project was dismissed.

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Mission Complete… - njdiver - 07-06-2015

Hi ....,

The project reached its successful completion this morning on schedule and ship is returning to port today. I wanted to thank you for all of your assistance and cooperation.


Sean Higgins, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Marine Operations
Sr. Research Scientist
L-DEO /Columbia University
61 Rt. 9W
Palisades, NY 10964

Re: To Dive Boat Captains, Dive Shops and the Diving Community – Seismic Survey Info - njdiver - 07-10-2015

July 9, 2015

NJ ocean blasting research completed; court action halted

Seismic testing that involved blasting the ocean floor off the New Jersey shore with sound waves has been completed, and a lawsuit brought against it by fishing groups has been dismissed.

Five fishing groups had sued to stop the research, led by Rutgers University and involving the National Science Foundation, and the University of Texas, claiming it disturbs and possibly harms marine life including dolphins, whales, turtles and many fish species.

But in a joint court filing Wednesday, both sides acknowledged that the testing had been completed on Monday, and that a restraining order shutting it down is no longer needed.

A separate lawsuit brought by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection challenging the way the project was approved remains active.

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