Companies will halt Gulf seismic surveys for 30 months

NEW ORLEANS — Oil and gas companies working in the Gulf of Mexico have agreed not to use seismic surveys for the next 2 1/2 years in three areas considered critical to whales and along the coast during the calving season for bottlenose dolphins.

The agreement among three environmental groups, several trade groups and the U.S. Interior Department was filed Thursday afternoon in federal court in New Orleans.

Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Development Council says the 30-month period will give the government and industry time for required environmental studies and research.

Environmental groups say the surveys, involving repeated bangs by air guns, can damage whales and baby dolphins.

Eric Milito of the American Petroleum Institute says industry agreed to the measures although it feels the risk of harm is minor.