Fishing Industry Raises Concerns over Oil and Gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Press Release, July 21/2015

In a powerful show of unity, First Nation communities and fishing industry representatives call on the Federal Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment, and Fisheries to suspend petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until it can determine that these activities would pose no risk to commercial fisheries.

The Gulf’s Aboriginal Communities, Harvester, and Processor Associations, call on the federal government to hear public concerns and evaluate the risks of drilling in a semi- enclosed body of water that supports hundreds of coastal communities in 5 provinces.

“The government is ignoring that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is partially landlocked and one of the most sensitive and productive marine breeding regions in Canada with over 2,200 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year around. Due to the sensitive nature of the St. Lawrence it unlikely that a billion dollar fishing industry could withstand oil and gas development,” says Marilyn Clark, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association.  Although Strategic Environmental assessment (SEA) have been undertaken by both Newfoundland and Quebec, these inadequate assessments failed to look at the Gulf as a whole, she said.

“We know there is very little capacity to respond to an oil spill due to high winds and counter clockwise currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year, leaving NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL coastlines vulnerable to contamination. Despite this, the environmental assessment process has been downgraded to allow companies to drill exploratory wells without consulting people depending on these waters for their livelihoods,” states fisherman Leonard Leblanc of Cheticamp, Nova Scotia.

Spill simulations undertaken by the Rimouski Institute of Ocean Science demonstrate that fish and plankton critical to the Gulf’s food chain would have to migrate through oil at both the Laurentian Channel and Straight of Belle Isle, which are entry and exit regions critical to the Gulf’s entire eco-system.

Even Corridor Resources, who wants to drill at Old Harry, acknowledge in their EA report that: “There are environmental and technological constraints to response and cleanup. High sea states and visibility are examples of typical environmental constraints, while technological constraints include pumping capacity of oil recovery devices and effectiveness of chemical dispersants.” Furthermore, several months of ice coverage in the winter escalate these important limitations.

Nearly two years ago, First Nations formed the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Alliance and signed an agreement to protect the Gulf from Oil and Gas Development. They have recently renewed this commitment and reiterated their request for a 12 year Moratorium.

To date, they have yet to be consulted on the Old Harry project.

“Quebec’s Environment Assessment (SEA) detailed many gaps in knowledge and understanding of the Gulf of St Lawrence.  We have existing Aboriginal rights and constitutionally protected Treaty Rights as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. We will do all that is necessary to protect our way of life and prevent any exploratory plan to be carried out in the Gulf,” explains Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

In the event of a spill, Canadian law demands a company to have a measly 1 billion dollars of compensation monies. This is deeply inadequate when you consider that Gulf fisheries are worth more than one billion each year. Investments in boats, licenses, and fish plants dependent on renewable resources for their operations are worth far more than these proposed damages. The BP Macondo disaster cost BP over $40 billion dollars so far and could cost the company over $60billion due to ongoing litigation.

“How do you quantify damages to living species that have been around for thousands of years if you are not even taking into account ecological value?” asks Clark. “In short, the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishing industry will accept no less than a full, independent expert review panel, acting in the 5 provinces, as is warranted by public concerns in section 38 (2) b of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act”, she concludes.

For further information contact:

Marilyn Clark 902.774.0006 (French/English)
Director Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association

Troy Jerome 506.759.2000 (French/English)
Executive Director
Nutewistoq, Mi’gmawei, Mawiomi Secretariat

Leonard LeBlanc 902-302-0794 (French/English)
Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition

Ian MacPherson 902-566-4050 (English)
PEI Fishermen’s Association

Jean-Pierre Couillard 418-269-7701 (French)
Association des Capitaines Propriétaire de la Gaspésie

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