THE FIRST marine geophysical survey began over the weekend in the Irish Sea, just off the coast of Copeland. 

The seismic 'non-intrusive' survey, which involves sound waves, is being carried out by Nuclear Waste Services to discover whether the seabed contains suitable geology for an underground nuclear waste facility.

A 92-metre vessel carrying specialist acoustic equipment has been deployed 5 to 20km from the coastline, with the survey, by specialists Shearwater GeoServices, set to take place over a period of three to four weeks.

As part of the survey, a team of specialist observers will be on board the vessel to ensure any marine animals have cleared the area around the vessel before the blasting begins. 

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NWS Senior Project Manager Chris Eldred said: "We are looking forward to the first surveys beginning over the weekend off the south-west coast of Copeland, with specialists at Shearwater GeoServices.

"The information we gather will help us to further consider the suitability of the geology beneath the seabed, to host a GDF and support informed dialogue with the communities that are at the heart of the siting process," he said. 

The work is continuing despite a petition, from Lakes Against Nuclear Waste Dump, reaching of over 50,000 signatures calling for a halt on the research, with fears of damaging all forms of sealife within the vacinity. 

The group advocates that countries around the world are lobbying for the research method to be banned, alongside claims that the research is not coming from a scientific point of view, but that of a commercial one. 

Cumbria Wildlife Trust have also spoken out about the harm seismic surveys can have on wildlife across the board. 

Georgia de Jong Cleyndert, head of marine (acting) for the North West Wildlife Trusts said: "Seismic surveys can negatively impact marine wildlife, causing harm over long distances underwater.

"In particular, the intense sound waves that are generated can have a significant impact on marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises - as well as seabirds - causing behavioural impacts, disturbance and possible injury. For example, loud noise can cause either temporary or permanent auditory damage which may impact communication and ability to detect predators or prey and/or assess their environment," she said. 

READ MORE: Petitioners oppose seismic testing of Irish Sea at council meeting