Category Archives: Ecosystem Sustainability

This section includes information about the Big Picture of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including ice formations, currents, the stresses already on the ecosystem, Mik’maq concept of sustainability, the commercial fishery etc.

Lobster fisherman wary of Gulf of St. Lawrence oil drilling ~ Chronicle Herald

May 11th, 2016

Lobster fisherman wary of Gulf of St. Lawrence oil drilling
FRAM DINSHAW STAFF REPORTER
Published May 10, 2016 – 6:25pm
Last Updated May 11, 2016 – 8:55am

As lobster season gets underway Tuesday in Cape Breton, a top local fisherman is warning that oil exploration and drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could wreak havoc on local marine life.

“It could ruin our industry,” said Jordan MacDougall, president of the Inverness South Fisherman’s Association.

He warned that any oil spill would settle on the seabed — prime lobster habitat — and devastate their populations.

“You wouldn’t be able to sell your product and it would probably give Canada a negative name for that product from other areas,” said MacDougall.

His comments come just four months after regulators granted a one-year extension on an oil exploration licence for Corridor Resources Inc. at the Old Harry site off the western coast of Newfoundland, in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

But some warn that drilling for oil at Old Harry may detonate a ticking time bomb.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, a 10,000-barrel oil spill at Old Harry in winter would hit the coasts of Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Les Iles de-la-Madeleine, which belong to Quebec. Simulations at other times of year also predict oil hitting the west and southern coastline of Newfoundland.

The areas that would be worst-affected by any spill would likely vary between seasons, but the Gulf of Saint Lawrence’s prevailing current runs anti-clockwise, which would push oil away from the open Atlantic and potentially endanger all five provinces bordering it.

“The Gulf of Saint Lawrence should be off-limits for drilling because it’s an extremely valuable marine area in terms of fisheries — lobster, tuna, snow crab, as well as herring,” said federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

She also said the gulf was home to several species of endangered whales. The Species at Risk Public Registry lists blue whales as living in the gulf. The Alternative Journal also listed belugas as endangered in late 2014 after their numbers in the Saint Lawrence estuary and gulf dropped below 1,000.

“It’s really critical that we have protection of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence,” said May.

But she said that needed environmental protections were stripped away by the former Conservative government when it passed C-38 in 2012, an omnibus bill that reduced protections for Canadian fisheries and fish habitats. Protection is now limited to only commercial, recreational or First Nations fisheries. Furthermore, the new law forbids only the killing of fish or the permanent altering of their habitats.

C-38 also included a new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, replacing a stricter law that was passed in 1992, according to the Environmental Law Centre (ELC).

The 2012 act removed the requirement for a federal environmental assessment for all development projects. Even in cases when a project is designated by regulation, C-38 allows the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to determine that an assessment is not required.

Secondly, the federal government may decide not to conduct its own environmental assessment of a designated project on the basis that the project is being assessed provincially, which the ELC maintains is a delegation of federal power and jurisdiction to the provinces.

This leaves provincial agencies such as the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum board free to conduct their own assessments without referring to the federal cabinet, according to May.

“The rest of Canada is not paying attention to these smaller agencies that got power to do environmental assessments under Harper,” said May, who added that C-38 had to be repealed by the present Liberal government.

May also criticized the renewal of Corridor Resources Inc.’s oil exploration licence for free in January.

“It’s the fourth year they’ve gotten it for free,” said May.

However, the CNLOPB said that environmental protection was a top priority when reviewing applications for oil drilling in areas like Old Harry.

“The Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board delivers world-class regulatory oversight with safety and environmental protection as our top priorities.

“A comprehensive strategic environmental assessment update was completed for the Western Newfoundland Offshore Area in 2014, and a project-specific environmental assessment would also be required prior to authorization of a drilling program under the board’s jurisdiction,” said board spokesman Sean Kelly in an email.

He added that other obligations had to be met regarding installations, training and competency, emergency response plans, financial capacity and the industrial benefits of a proposed program.

The Herald tried contacting both Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Corridor Resources Inc.’s CEO Steve Moran for more information but was unable to reach them by late Tuesday afternoon.

Source: Chronicle Herald  (Links added – not contained in original article.)

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Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores, passionate speaker at Pa’qtnkek Water Ceremony, October 26, 2015

February 1st, 2016

Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition (SOSS), speaks passionately for protecting the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Pa’qtnkek Water Ceremony with Ethan Hawke, October 26, 2015.

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Old Harry : Corridor Resources’ license extended one year without penalty – The St. Lawrence Coalition denounces this preferential treatment

January 19th, 2016

PRESS RELEASE
Montréal, January 19 2016

Against all odds, the Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (the Board), with the approval of both federal and Newfoundland Natural Resources ministers (James Carr and Siobhan Coady), extended Corridor Resources’ exploration license EL1105 on the Old Harry site for an extra year, a license that was set to expire last Friday January 15. This favour was granted without even requiring the mandatory one million dollars drilling deposit to obtain an extension. It is the third time in four years that Corridor obtains such a special privilege, a situation that is strongly denounced by the St. Lawrence Coalition.

The Board justifies this exploration license extension by saying it is necessary in order to hold public as well as First Nations consultations. Yet, ex-Environment Minister Peter Kent had already asked the Board in August 2011, over four years ago, to hold such “extensive public consultations”. The Board did set up an inter-provincial consultation in September 2011, to be under the direction of Commissioner Bernard Richard, but it was canceled in February 2012 by the Board, without justification, a few days before it officially started.

Danielle and Sylvain

Danielle Giroux, president of Attention FragÎles and Sylvain Archambault, biologist (SNAP Québec) and spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition.

“The required consultations have still not been held. And now the Board dares to say that the extension is needed to perform consultations that they have been pushing forward for the last four years. This is disrespectful to all the citizens, scientists, fishermen, First Nations, who, for many years, have had deep concerns about the dangers of such offshore drillings” says Sylvain Archambault, biologist (SNAP Québec) and spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition.

In the Magdalen Islands, people are also distressed with this news: “The Corridor Resources drilling project, a mere 80 km from the archipelago, stirs up major concerns with numerous citizens and organizations on the islands. During the past few years, Magdalen Islanders have voiced regularly their opposition to the drilling project and their fears over the impacts of opening the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the oil industry” emphasizes Danielle Giroux, president of Attention FragÎles.

“Corridor Resources is a junior company with no offshore experience and limited financial means. Even if the firm struggles to fulfill its license obligations and survives from extension to extension since 2008, it still holds two licenses on the Quebec portion of Old Harry, licenses currently under moratorium. Why would Quebec take enormous risks by lifting its moratorium and associating itself with a junior company struggling to keep its license in Newfoundland?” asks Christian Simard of Nature Québec.

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is host to great biological diversity and its durable fishing and tourism industries should be encouraged” says Jean-Patrick Toussaint, Science Project Manager at the David Suzuki Foundation. “For many years, numerous groups, citizens and scientists, have asked the federal minister of Natural Resources to work in a concerted manner with the five Gulf provinces to put in place a true integrated management of the Gulf. As a matter of fact, the federal government has recently committed to better protect Canada’s marine areas, including the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The federal government should invite the provinces to work together for better protection of the Gulf, rather than giving a free-pass to Corridor Resources” concludes Mr Toussaint.
– 30 –

The St. Lawrence Coalition is composed of 85 organizations and associations, including First Nations, and over 5000 individuals from various economic sectors and the 5 coastal provinces. Members of the Coalition are calling for a moratorium on exploration and exploitation of oil and gas across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The St. Lawrence Coalition is overseen by a steering committee composed of Attention FragÎles, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS Québec) and Nature Québec.

Please download the St. Lawrence Coalition report on oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence “Gulf 101”

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‘They’re neighbours’: Ethan Hawke on why he joined Mi’kmaq call to halt oil drilling ~ CTV

November 25th, 2015
CTVNews.ca Staff
Tuesday, November 24, 2015 1:06PM EST

 

Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke says he considers Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq people to be his “neighbours,” and that they’ve inspired him to support a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

“You know, I have a place up in Nova Scotia,” Hawke said CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday. “There is a Mi’kmaq (reserve) right near my house.”

Hawke, who is currently on tour promoting his new book “Rules for a Knight,” said the nearby First Nations group reached out to ask him to support their cause.

“They contacted me and made me aware of what was happening in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and what they’re doing to protect it,” he said.

Along with other environmental groups, the Mi’kmaq are calling for a 12-year moratorium on drilling in the area.

They say the drilling could harm the fragile ecosystem and their traditional lands, and want a thorough environmental assessment before any operations continue.

Hawke joined the Mi’kmaq for a traditional water ceremony last month to honour the community’s relationship with their environment.

“You know, they’re an impressive group of people,” Hawke said. “I really like how they’re using their indigenous rights to help us all.”

Hawke owns a property in St. George’s Bay, N.S., often spends time there during the summer.

In October, he told The Canadian Press that the area is “an absolutely magical place.”

Hawke told Canada AM that he feels it’s important to protect the gulf not only for himself and the Mi’kmaq currently living there, but for future generations.

“I really wanted my kids to see me (advocating with the Mi’kmaq) because that piece of property, with any luck, will be theirs’,” he said. “And the legacy of taking care of that land and that water will fall to them.”

Beyond environmental stewardship, Hawke also recently offered his children life lessons in the form of a new book.

In “Rules for a Knight,” the author and actor lists a series of traits all good knights – or good people – should possess.

Hawke says he drew upon his own life experience and family lessons to come up with the complete list of 20 rules, which span from lessons on humility to ruminations on solitude, friendship, and death.

Each chapter opens with an illustration of a bird, drawn by his wife, Ryan Shawhughes.

Hawke said the idea for the book originally sprang from a conversation with his Shawhughes about the most important rules in their home. The concept evolved into “Rules for a princess,” which was dedicated to his eldest daughter. Then, Hawke adjusted the title to fit his son’s interests.

“It slowly just grew in the telling until finally, this year, my oldest is graduating and we just decided to publish it,” he said.

Hawke said his wife and children influenced the book so much that, in some ways, he doesn’t feel right taking all the credit.

“I feel much more like the editor than an author,” he said.

Source: CTV Canada AM

[Note: Independent media video idea coverage of the October 26th press conference in Paq’tnkek is also available. Watch excerpts from all speakers here, and Save Our Seas and Shores spokesperson’s entire commentary here. Credit: Ruby Tree Films]

 

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Dispersants did not help oil degrade in Gulf of Mexico BP spill – new study

November 10th, 2015

When the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout spewed 5-million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, one of the main tools used against the oil was a chemical dispersant called Corexit. 7-million litres of this detergent-like chemical was used to break up oil slicks, in part to disperse the oil into the water and prevent contamination of coastlines, birds, and marine mammals.

It was also thought that dissolving the slicks like this would increase the rate at which natural bacteria would bio-degrade the oil. But work by Dr. Samantha Joye, a microbiologist in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, and her colleagues, has shown that Corexit seems to inhibit, rather than facilitate, the ability of microbes to break down oil, leaving the toxic oil in the water for longer.

This throws into question a big part of the case for using chemical dispersant on oil spills.

Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, studies the oil plumes generated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout. (Credit: Todd Dickey/University of Georgia)

Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, studies the oil plumes generated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout. (Credit: Todd Dickey/University of Georgia)

“The dispersants did a great job in that they got the oil off the surface,” Joye said. “What you see is the dispersants didn’t ramp up biodegradation.”

In fact, she found the oil with no dispersant “degraded a heckuva lot faster than the oil with dispersants,” Joye said.

Joye’s team chronicled nearly 50,000 species of bacteria in the Gulf and what they did to the water with oil, and water with oil and dispersant.

One of the main groups of oil munchers are fat little sausage-shaped bacteria called marinobacters, Joye said. They eat oil all the time and comprise about 3 percent of the bacteria in normal water. But when there’s oil, they eat and multiply like crazy until they are as much as 42 percent of the bacteria, Joye said.

But when the dispersant was applied, they didn’t grow. They stayed around 3 percent, Joye said.

Instead, a different family of bugs called colwellia multiplied more, and they don’t do nearly as good a job at munching the oil, Joye said. She theorized that for some reason the dispersant and marinobacters just don’t work together.

So if the oil wasn’t degraded by the bacteria, the question remains: Where did it go? Joye guesses it might still be on the floor of the gulf.

Should authorities avoid dispersants in the future? “That’s an extraordinarily complicated question,” says Joye. Corexit has its problems, but it does seem to keep oil away from coasts. “Nobody wants to see oiled birds, turtles, and dolphins, but the bottom line is that if you disperse that oil, it’s still in the water. You feel better, but is it improving the situation? My gut instinct is that I would put my faith in the microbial communities to do their job.”

Sources:
Listen to CBC podcast interview with Dr. Samantha Joye
Associated Press
The Atlantic

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Right whales off Cape Breton going the wrong way for shipping, fishing

October 4th, 2015
THE CHRONICLE HERALD
TOM AYERS CAPE BRETON BUREAU
Published September 22, 2015 – 7:47pm
Last Updated September 22, 2015 – 7:58pm
Cape Breton residents are seeing more right whales offshore as the ocean mammals search for food. The top and sides of whales’ heads have raised patches of skin that are black and called callosities. These are the identifying features for distinguishing individual right whales, shown here as they surface off Cape Breton. (MOIRA BROWN / Canadian Whale Institute)

Whales leaving traditional feeding grounds for Gulf of St. Lawrence: oceanographer
Cape Breton residents are seeing more right whales offshore as the ocean mammals search for food. The top and sides of whales’ heads have raised patches of skin that are black and called callosities. These are the identifying features for distinguishing individual right whales, shown here as they surface off Cape Breton. (MOIRA BROWN / Canadian Whale Institute)

Researchers say endangered right whales may be going the wrong way when it comes to shipping lanes and fishing grounds around Cape Breton and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Kim Davies, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University, said that right whales have significantly changed their migration patterns over the last few years.

The endangered marine mammals are leaving their traditional feeding grounds off southern Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy and are increasingly making their way into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to chase food.

“Because these changes in the right whale distribution have been occurring over several years — I think 2011 was the first year they really started disappearing — we’re growing more and more concerned,” said Davies.

Right whales are typically in the region from June to October, chasing large, high-energy zoo-plankton that arrive every summer along with cold Arctic water, she said, and that food source has been largely absent lately from the Roseway Basin off Barrington and from the Bay of Fundy.

It’s not yet clear whether the plankton change is due to global warming or melting Arctic sea ice, Davies said, “but it is climate related.”

Government and industry have worked together to change seasonal shipping and fishing regulations off the South Shore and in the Fundy region to protect right whales, but that work has not been done in the open ocean or the Gulf, she said.

“That is the No. 1 concern,” said Davies.

“We have very good information on shipping, about where vessels are and where fishing takes place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and across the Scotian Shelf, but we have practically no information about right whales and their migration, outside of their well-known habitats.”

This year, researchers from several organizations kicked a monitoring program into high gear, said Davies. She started surveying off Nova Scotia using underwater drones that listened for whales near offshore oil and gas fields, and some aerial surveys were conducted in the Gulf.

Scientists were surprised to find 35 to 40 right whales near Prince Edward Island and the Gaspe Peninsula, she said.

“They’re popping up in odd places everywhere,” said Davies.

“We heard them out at the shelf break last week, 200 kilometres offshore, which is very concerning because of the oil and gas seismic exploration that’s going to occur there.”

Davies said using underwater drones to listen for right whales, a system can be developed to alert shipping and fishing vessels in the area, but that work is just starting.

Moira Brown, a senior scientist at the Canadian Whale Institute, said the right whale population has been growing again over the last few years, with more than 500 individuals identified in the area, but more effort is needed to monitor the population’s shifting migration patterns.

They are being spotted regularly by whale watching tours off Cape Breton and by others in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and are also appearing off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, she said.

“In fact, there have been more sightings (this year) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence than there have been in their two critical habitats in the Bay of Fundy and the Roseway Basin,” she said.

The whales have always travelled to the Gulf, said Brown, but not in great numbers.

“There’s no doubt that we are very data poor on that end. It’s certainly time to get up there and do more surveys.”

Davies said two right whales were entangled this summer in fishing gear off Ingonish, and both were released. One was rescued by a group from Newfoundland after a buoy rope became wrapped around its tail. In the other instance, a right whale was penned inside a mackerel net.

The Whale Release and Strandings Group, based in St. Philip’s, N.L., was sent to Cape Breton in July to look for an entangled humpback when it came across one of the right whales, said Julie Huntington, education co-ordinator with the group.

“It’s great that we were there and able to respond,” she said.

Brown and Davies said that with the changing migration patterns, it wouldn’t be surprising if Fisheries and Oceans Canada was concerned about right whales getting tangled in fishing gear.

No one from the department was available for comment Tuesday.

 

Link to this story

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Quebec First Nations take legal action against Belledune oil terminal ~ CBC News

July 8th, 2015

Ask New Brunswick court to quash construction permit issued to Chaleur Terminals Inc., cite failure to consult
CBC News
Jul 07, 2015

Mi’gmaq communities in the Gaspé region have take legal action against the New Brunswick government and Chaleur Terminals Inc., in a bid to halt construction of an oil terminal in Belledune, N.B.

Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation and the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat filed a notice of application with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Campbellton, N.B., on Monday.

They are seeking to quash the approval to construct permit, environmental approval permit and site approval issued to Chaleur Terminals by the New Brunswick Department of Environment earlier this year.

The band and not-for-profit corporation allege the provincial government has breached its “ongoing duty to consult and to seek to reach a reasonable accommodation with the applicants,” according to the court documents.

They want the court to issue an order prohibiting the government from issuing any further permits, approvals or authorizations to Chaleur Terminals “until such time as the province of New Brunswick has fulfilled its obligations to the applicants.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The New Brunswick government and Chaleur Terminals have not yet filed responses with the court.

Sacred duty to protect salmon

Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, contends the proposed project is in violation of aboriginal title, rights and treaties.

He says his people have a sacred duty to protect the salmon in the Matapedia and Restigouche rivers, along which the oil would be carried in rail cars.

​”Our people here fish salmon. If you look out on the river today, they’re out there fishing salmon. It’s our way of life. We’ve been doing that for thousands of years and we went and [did] what we had to do to defend our way of life in terms of protecting the salmon,” he said.

‘If there’s even one rail tank that spills into that river, it’s a lot more important to us than those 40 jobs.’- Troy Jerome, Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat

“We are one with the salmon. So the salmon [are] looking to us to protect them, and they provide us nourishment, so we have that kind of relationship, that direct relationship. And Chaleur Terminals right now, they’re talking about a couple of jobs, even up to 40 jobs — if there’s even one rail tank that spills into that river, it’s a lot more important to us than those 40 jobs.”

220 rail cars of Alberta oil daily

Chaleur Terminals, a subsidiary of Alberta-based Secure Energy Services, purchased 250 acres from the Port of Belledune last year. It plans to transport Alberta crude oil to Belledune by rail, for marine export abroad.

Construction is expected to start at the end of 2015 or 2016 and take about 18 months. Once complete, the project would see about 220 rail cars carrying oil to Belledune every day.

Jerome says people in the Gaspé area don’t have much faith in CN Railway after upgrades earlier this year caused irreversible damage to the local salmon population, according to anglers.

And he says efforts to discuss the project with the provincial and federal governments have so far not resulted in proper engagement.

In April, CN Railway dumped 6,000 tonnes of rocks on the side of its tracks to prevent erosion — and right into an important salmon breeding ground in the Matapedia River, causing irreversible damage, according to Quebec’s Atlantic Salmon Federation.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officials have said the rail company didn’t respect its maintenance work permit when it dumped the rocks during an important time in the Atlantic salmon breeding cycle.

A total of 22 municipalities in Quebec have voiced opposition to Chaleur Terminals’ project in Belledune.

Local politicians in New Brunswick, however, have said they welcome the estimated 200 jobs it will create during construction and 40 permanent full-time jobs once it’s in operation.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/quebec-first-nations-take-legal-action-against-belledune-oil-terminal-1.3141269

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St. Lawrence Coalition Releases Gulf 101 Report

June 12th, 2014
Credit: Andrea Schaffer via Flickr
Credit: Andrea Schaffer via Flickr

After four years of research by the St. Lawrence Coalition, Gulf 101 – Oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Facts, Myths, and Future Outlook was released last week (June 10th 2014) in tandem with World Oceans Week. The report explores the facts and myths surrounding oil exploration and exploitation in the Gulf as well as possible future scenarios that may result from these activities.

The 80-page report highlights our lack of understanding towards the ecosystems within the Gulf as well as the oceans currents and other environmental components found there. The environment of the Gulf is subject to conditions that are not seen in other areas of oil development such as winter ice that would make cleaning up an oil spill almost impossible, threatening the destruction of the slowly recovering cod stocks as well as the currently thriving fisheries and tourism industries that so many communities depend on.

The report provides true insight for why Save Our Seas and Shores and the St. Lawrence Coalition asks you to lend your support to a moratorium on oil and gas in the Gulf. Go here to take action!

The Gulf 101 Report generated massive media attention in all five Gulf provinces. Here is a selection:

Newfoundland

The Telegram: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2014-06-09/article-3755759/Group-calls-for-oil-and-gas-moratorium-in-the-Gulf-of-St.-Lawrence/1

Nova Scotia

Chronicle Herald: http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1206569-hunt-for-oil-gas-in-gulf-of-st-lawrence-questioned

CBC Nova Scotia: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/groups-call-for-gulf-of-st-lawrence-oil-and-gas-moratorium-1..2669369

Prince Edward Island:

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-06-09/article-3756428/Group-calls-for-moratorium-on-drilling-in-Gulf-of-St.-Lawrence/1

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-06-10/article-3757764/Oceans-Day-reminds-us-to-protect-the-Gulf/1

Quebec

CBC News Montreal (online): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/moratorium-on-gulf-of-st-lawrence-oil-exploration-sought-1.2669637 (June 9)

Go hear to read the Press Release on the report from the David Suzuki Foundation:

English: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2014/06/groups-and-first-nations-in-five-provinces-demand-a-stop-oil-and-gas-activities/

French: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/fr/medias/communiques-de-presse/2014/06/des-groupes-et-premieres-nations-des-cinq-provinces-exigent-un-arret-des-activit/

 

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Widespread collapse of scallop fishery reported in Port au Port Bay, Newfoundland

February 7th, 2014

Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee

MEDIA RELEASE

February 7, 2014

Fishery Committee Concerned about Collapse of the Scallop Fishery and Threats to the Marine Ecosystem in Port au Port Bay

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is intending to act on their concerns about the collapse of the Scallop Fishery and threats to the local Marine Ecosystem,

The Committee which met Monday evening, February 3, 2014 in Port au Port East has created subcommittees and an action plan to deal with their concerns.

Scallop fishermen in the Port au Port Bay Region reported that they have never experienced such a widespread collapse of the scallop fishery in the local bay. Laboratory test results on scallops submitted to the Federal Department of Fisheries last November have been inconclusive as to the cause of the collapse. The committee was also disappointed that the scallops were not tested for petroleum contaminants. The fishermen also report that  sea urchins have gone and there is a big decline in  rock crab.

Local fishermen believe that environmental pollutants, possibly from oil/industrial developments in the area, may be contributing to the drastic decline in scallops. Fishery Committee member Captain Gus Hynes says that he and his crew are quite concerned that developments have been occurring around Port au Port Bay without due regard to their impact on scallops and other marine species.

Fishery Committee members believe that past government environmental assessments done under the jurisdiction of the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board are not adequately protecting fishery interests and the marine environment. The 2007 Environmental Assessment for the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program at Shoal Point makes no mention of the potential high risk and vulnerability of the site to tidal surges, coastal erosion and other impacts from extreme weather related to climate change. The risks associated with rapid rate of coastal erosion caused by extreme weather and tidal surges in the area are self evident such as the recent wash- outs of sections of the Piccadilly Main Road; Fox Island Road, and the main roadway to the Shoal Point drilling site.

Bill O’Gorman, scallop diver and Fishery Committee spokesperson, says the name of the area “Shoal” Point should have set off enough bells and red lights to warrant at least some reference in the 2007 Environmental Assessment to the risk involved with drilling at such a vulnerable site. ‘The alarming fact is that drilling was approved on an exposed shoal at the tip of a point jutting out some eight kilometres towards the centre of Port au Port Bay.” Mr. O’ Gorman believes that the environmental and health risks of oil drilling on a shoal are more serious today due to  increasing extreme weather, rising ocean levels and tidal surges – all related to climate change

Boswarlos resident, Andrew Harvey,  a fisherman for thirty-seven years, has been recording storms and other weather conditions in the Port au Port Bay area.  He has noticed the increasing frequency of storms and the intensity of the storm surges.  Andrew speculates, based on the rate of coastal erosion at Shoal Point that the latest  drill site at  the end of the point will be ” pretty well washed away within the next five to ten years”

Other problems at Shoal Point that concerns the Fishery Committee are pollution issues and lack of remediation and environmental restoration at abandoned drilling sites at Shoal Point. “There was no mention in the 2007 Environmental Assessment of past oil drilling sites that were once on land and are now off shore with oil from derelict pipes polluting the coastal environment.” Many area residents and tourists such as Bill Duffenais and Karen Smith, who have a cabin and shed threatened by coastal erosion at Shoal Point, have reported the presence of drilling pipes jutting vertically out of the water off Shoal Point. Troy Duffy, local Environmental Protection Officer and members of the Fishery Committee have   verified and documented the existence of these pipes, oil slicks and smell of petroleum in the area. Larry Hicks, a Provincial Department of Resources geologist, has indicated that there may be as many as fifteen abandoned drilling sites in the Shoal Point area which are in various states of deterioration.

There were also no public consultation meetings or forums conducted as part of the  original 2007 Environmental Assessment Process which ended with the approval of the last drilling project at Shoal Pont. The Fishery Committee believes that this environmental process facilitated by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (C -NLOPB0) was invalid, undemocratic and failed the residents of the region. The C-NLOPB were in conflict of interest by being responsible for facilitating oil and gas development and also being responsible for worker safety and environmental protection. The Fishery Committee supports Judge Robert Wells main recommendation in his Report on Offshore Safety that the Federal and Provincial Governments should create a Safety and Environmental Protection Agency separate from the C-NLOPB.

Related to the 2007 Assessment was the 2010 request from Shoal Pont Energy to amend the 2007 Environmental Assessment to allow Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking). Fracking possibly would have been approved at this site if it were not for the intervention of the regional Fracking Awareness Groups and others.

With reference to the Provincial Government’s Turn Back The Tide Climate Change Initiative the Fishery Committee is calling upon the Provincial Government to do a study and assessment of climate change impacts on Shoal Point and other sensitive areas such as the coastal road near Fox Island River.

The Fishery Committee is requesting that the Provincial and Federal Governments should say no to Hydraulic Fracturing at Shoal Point due to well documented, unacceptable risks. As an alternative they should do what they are promoting in the provincial government’s Turn Back The Tide Advertising Campaign – act on climate change by developing new and clean renewable energy – wind, tidal, thermal and solar.

The objectives of the Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee  are:

1.  Determine why the scallops are dying in Port au Port Bay.

2.  Study and monitor the marine ecology of Port au Port Bay

3.  Promote a healthy marine ecosystem

4.  Preserve the species that are dying off

5.  Preserve the fishery as a way of life.

 

 

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Environmental sensitivity of Gulf of St. Lawrence – map

January 30th, 2014

Source:

A Review of Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime. Setting the Course for the Future. Published by Tanker Safety Panel Secretariat, Ottawa. 2013
www.tc.gc.ca/eng/tankersafetyexpertpanel/menu.htm

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