March 8, 2013
Shell Canada’s proposed seismic survey could have an impact on the migration patterns of bluefin tuna off the coast of Nova Scotia, the federal Fisheries Department says.
A department official has told the industry regulator that the global energy giant should have a more detailed plan to avoid interfering with migrating tuna, or the midshore fishery, on the Scotian Shelf.
“New information on bluefin tuna migrations indicate that they travel along the shelf edge during the same time as the proposed seismic activity,” Donald Humphrey said Wednesday in an email to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.
Humphrey, with the habitat management division, also said department staff have heard from several area fisherman who have asked Shell for more information about the seismic program but have not had a response.
“I would like to emphasize the importance of engaging these stakeholders,” the filing says.
Calgary-based Shell, a subsidiary of the Dutch oil and gas company, plans to start a 3-D seismic survey program of six deepwater blocks. The parcels are located about 350 kilometres south of Halifax.
Shell wants to explore almost 12,200 square kilometres of an area known as the Shelburne Basin.
The wide-azimuth surveys, part of a $1-billion exploration program planned over six years, will help the company examine the basin for potential drilling sites.
The survey program will run from April to September, with more work scheduled during the same time frame in 2014.
The 3-D surveys involve several vessels towing air-gun source arrays, with the two outer vessels also towing streamers.
While DFO has raised concerns about bluefin tuna, an Eastern Shore fisherman said Friday he’s concerned about the possible impact the survey could have on the snow crab fishery.
Peter Connors said scientific studies about the potential impact of seismic work on fish species have been inconclusive.
“The scientists aren’t prepared to say that it does cause any harm. It may or may not. We really don’t know,” the Sober Island fisherman said.
Connors, who is president of the Eastern Shore Fishermen’s Protective Association, also fishes lobster and halibut, which is another species found in the deepwater area that Shell wants to be explore.
Because the survey work would take several months, fishermen are also talking to Shell about minimizing the seismic program’s impact on various fisheries, he said.
A spokesman for aboriginal fishermen in Truro said the seismic work would also be done in an area that has swordfishing.
“They are aware of the longliners and are addressing that issue,” Roger Hunka, director of the Maritime Aboriginal Aquatic Resources Secretariat, said of the dialogue swordfisherman are having with Shell.
A Shell spokesman said the company has consulted with fisheries representatives and will continue to do so.
“We have made efforts to provide project information regularly and respond to any questions or concerns,” Stephen Doolan said in an email.
The board said earlier this week that it takes all stakeholder comments into account in deciding on the survey plan.