The U.S. Department of the Interior will announce this year a decision on whether to allow seismic airgun testing for oil and gas deposits along the coast from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The plan calls for survey ships with seismic sonars, which would shoot extremely loud blasts of compressed air through the ocean and miles under the seabed to create echos that would help determine where reserves of oil and gas may lie.
The side effects of such operations may cause some 138,500 whales and dolphins to go deaf or die, according to a draft report by the DOI.
Although drilling off the mid-Atlantic or southeast coast cannot begin until at least 2017, the exploration plan has sparked a heated debate between conservationists and some members of Congress.
Watch the animation below to find out how the seismic airgun would work.
Produced by Next Media Animation and Reuters