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Baffin Bay Seismic Testing Put on Hold Pending Inuit Court Outcome

Underwater seismic testing that interferes with marine life has been postponed pending the outcome of an Inuit court case against it.

The Inuit have yet to get a court decision on their attempt to stop underwater seismic testing, but it came as good news this week that the two companies attempting to map the sea floor using sonar have opted out for this year.

It’s a process that one scientist has described as like “dynamite going off in your neighborhood every ten to twelve seconds for weeks or months on end.” It involves shooting compacted air to the ocean floor through sonic cannons generating sound waves that help map oil and gas reserves under the seabed. But the sounds, 100,000 times louder than a jet engine, can deafen—and thus kill— marine mammals. The tests were due to start on July 1.

RELATED: 'A Deaf Whale Is a Dead Whale': Sound Blasting for Oil Threatens Marine Life

The Inuit had appealed the 2014 decision by Canada’s National Energy Board to let the testing go ahead, even in the face of potential harm to marine life. While the companies didn’t give reasons for their postponement, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Nader Hasan, said that doing so would respect the court process. The case was heard on April 20.

Besides threatening marine life, the testing can interfere with narwhal migration and compromise Inuit subsistence hunting rights. Now that hunt can continue this season unimpeded.

“It brought a sigh of relief to me and it means we can spend the summer still narwhal hunting without any migration problems with the whales,” Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine told the Nunatsiaq News. “It means a lot to me because it means a lot to the people.”

RELATED: A Feast Worth Fighting For: Inuit Appeal Approval of Seismic Testing at Federal Court

“Justice is on our side,” Natanine said. “We’re going to win this case.”