Protecting our gulf for future generations

Mary Gorman
July 19, 2011

This blog post first appeared as a Commentary in the Guardian PEI.

Protecting our gulf for future generations

The Tar Sands is not our only ecological struggle in Canada. A coalition of environmentalists, First Nations, inshore fishers, scientists, tourism operators, artists, teachers and municipalities from the Maritimes and Quebec are uniting to fight a preventive battle – to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from offshore oil development.

A company has applied to drill an exploratory well in ‘Old Harry’, located in the Laurentian Channel, which is the main artery in and out of our Gulf for over 2,000 marine species who spawn, nurse and migrate year around. Dr. David Suzuki calls it “one of the most precious ecosystems on our planet”. It is divinely beautiful.

The offshore oil industry likes to talk about co-existence and mitigation. But how can there be co-existence if spawning, nursery and migratory areas are up for grabs? The science on these 2,000 marine species is so limited, mitigation becomes just another ‘spin’ word. How does one mitigate the unknown?

Our Gulf is six times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico. The magnitude of last year’s BP spill would have covered completely the coastlines of half the provinces in the country. With counterclockwise currents, it only empties into the Atlantic once a year. It is one of the windiest regions in North America with winter ice cover. (How do you clean up spills under ice?)

Canada’s offshore regulatory structure is a disaster waiting to happen. Run by unelected, oil friendly provincial offshore boards, there are five different jurisdictional boundaries in our gulf, a single moving body of water. Trouble is, fish don’t recognize provincial boundaries; they swim though them. These boards allow the oil companies to monitor their own environmental requirements. Last fall, the Canada Newfoundland Board allowed seismic to proceed while endangered blue whale were migrating.

After the BP spill last year, I couldn’t sleep for a week. I felt a connection with people all over the world who were grieving, as I was, over how shamefully we have protected the essentials of life – air, water, soil and food – for those to come. For 50 years, our oceans have been one big dumping ground of industrial effluent globally. Our oceans are more acidic now. We are disrupting the fragile ecological balance between our oceans and atmosphere that create the oxygen levels that sustain life on earth. The BP spill didn’t help. Nor is the nuclear fallout in the Japan Sea.

Is it worth risking multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries in Acadian, Gaelic, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet coastal communities, who have historic precedence in these waters that have sustained us for centuries?

Do we want the Gulf of St. Lawrence to become the next Gulf of Mexico?

Please, email Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent at kent.p@parl.gc.ca and demand a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. The endangered blue whale will thank you. So will your grandchildren.

Mary Gorman of Merigomish, N.S., is a writer and unwaged activist, and co-founder of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.

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