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.

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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Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ A Unique Ecosystem

January 27th, 2014

This 32 page report presents the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a unique marine ecosystem that features complex oceanographic processes and also maintains a high biological diversity of marine life. The information provided covers physical systems such as the properties of water, physical oceanography and geological components. The biological aspects include descriptions of macrophytic, planktonic and benthic communities, reptiles, fish, marine birds and mammals. There is also a discussion on the human components such as settlement, industrial activity and governance. By providing relevant information in this format the report highlights the challenge of managing multiple human activities within the context of a dynamic, diverse and unique marine ecosystem. It was produced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2005.

Gulf of St. Lawrence A Unique Ecosystem DFO

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Offshore seismic testing puts wildlife at risk, biologist fears ~ Halifax Media Co-op

November 21st, 2013

Are blasting airguns jeopardizing Atlantic Ocean’s ecosystem?

by Robert Devet
Halifax Media Co-op
November 21, 2013

K’JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas production is on the upswing. Natural gas is flowing from the Deep Panuke natural gas field on the Scotian Shelf.

And now there are two new kids on the block. This time it’s oil they are after.

Shell Canada spent the summer mapping the geology of a large area in the Shelburne Basin about 300 kilometers south east of Halifax. Next summer BP Exploration (Canada) will follow suit.

Shell for one is happy with the results of its discovery effort. “The initial indication is that the data we’re seeing looks really good,” Shell spokesperson Larry Lalonde told the Chronicle Herald in early September of this year. “We’re quite excited about what we are seeing.”

But local environmental activists are worried. And the concern is not just about spills like the one we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Concerns emerge even in this early discovery stage when geologists are determining how much oil there really is, and where exactly that oil can be found.

Problem is, that discovery process is a very noisy affair.

Seismic testing involves the use of airguns fired from moving ships. The airguns generate loudblasts below the ocean’s surface approximately every 20 seconds. The nature of the resulting seismic waves allow geologists to map the geological strata below the ocean floor.

Many environmentalists believe that the noise generated by airguns, almost as loud as dynamite explosions, has a profoundly negative effect on fish, sea turtles and whales in the seismic testing area.

Beaked Whales spend 98% of their time below the surface and are unlkely to be spotted by observers on board of the seismic testing vessels, biologist Lindy Weilgart tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Photo: WikiCommons.

Beaked Whales spend 98% of their time below the surface and are unlikely to be spotted by observers on board of the seismic testing vessels, biologist Lindy Weilgart tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Photo: WikiCommons.

Lindy Weilgart, a Dalhousie University research associate in Biology, has studied the effects of seismic testing on marine wildlife since she was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

Biologist Lindy Weilgart believes more can be done to protect marine wildlife from seismic testing off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Dalhousie University

Biologist Lindy Weilgart believes more can be done to protect marine wildlife from seismic testing off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Dalhousie University

“When the airgun is fired you actually see a bubble coming to the surface, air is released under incredibly high pressure, and with a very sharp onset,” says Weilgart. “One shot, and if you don’t have ear protectors on you can go deaf.”

Weilgart is not just worried that sea creatures find themselves too close to the airguns and suffer permanent hearing damage. There are other reasons why seismic testing is particularly hard on ocean dwellers, says Weilgart.

Although under water sound drops off faster, it carries much further than it does on land. The sound of the airguns can be heard as far as 4,000 kilometers away. Combine that with how crucial sound is for fish and sea mammals, and you have a big problem.

“Often it is the quiet signals that are important,” says Weilgart. “For instance, fin whales have to listen for the sounds of potential mates, to meet up. For them it could mean the difference between a mating opportunity or not.”

And not just whales. Weilgart mentions studies that show that fish make very poor decisions about handling their prey when in a noisy environment. Even squid are affected.

The impact of seismic testing on ocean wildlife is complex. Weilgart gives example after example to drive home this point.

“We have to look at it in the way the animal experiences it, we have to be animal-centric,” says Weilgart. And behaviour isn’t always a good indicator of what is really going on.

“Sometimes the most vulnerable and most desperate of the individuals will stay, not because they aren’t bothered by the seismic testing, but because they can’t afford to leave, they don’t have the luxury,” says Weilgart.

Sea creatures are not just facing this one seismic survey, they are dealing with other noise sources as well, says Weilgart. Ships, the bow thrusters of oil platforms, the seismic ships themselves make noise.

Then there is stress caused by overfishing and loss of prey, climate change and warming of the oceans, acidification, the list goes on.

Environmental approval for this summer’s seismic testing by Shell was granted by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an independent joint federal-provincial agency that regulates all offshore oil and gas activities.

It’s written approval of this summer’s seismic testing effort states that it is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, especially given the precautionary measures to which Shell has committed.

Those precautionary measures consist of independent monitors who travel on board of the ships and watch for whales and turtles, and sensors that pick up sounds made by whales below the ocean surface. Work stops immediately when there is any sign that such ocean wildlife is present.

Mark Butler, Policy Director at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, does not think that is good enough.

What monitors are able to observe is just the tip of the iceberg, Butler says. Thick fog and big waves can make it very difficult to see a tail flick somewhere in that vast expanse of ocean.

Butler is also not happy that the exploration by Shell was taking place during the summer. He believes that it is better to stop seismic testing during sensitive periods.

“People don’t realize how much life comes into our waters in the spring and summer to feed, it’s like a highway out there,” says Butler.

This is why Butler asked that Shell postpone the seismic testing until later in the year, but Shell refused, arguing that the project was already approved and that bad weather in winter was too much of a risk to the crew.

“If you are striving, as some would perhaps suggest, for no environmental impact than there would be no man-made activities on land or on sea,” says Stuart Pinks, CEO of the Offshore Petroleum Board.

“But the purpose of the environmental assessment is to make sure that there is no significant adverse impact and to minimize any impact that has been identified to the lowest extent possible,” Pinks says.

Minimizing impact may be a matter of degree, but for Weilgart we’re not cautious enough.

“You can’t keep asking the animal to adapt, there is not enough luxury and play in the system,” says Weilgart. “The oceans are not doing well, and now you are throwing this at them.”

“At the very minimum you have to be precautionary.”

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/offshore-seismic-testing-puts-wildlife-risk-biolog/19939

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Coalition member is guest presenter at national Citizens Climate Lobby conference

November 17th, 2013

Mary Gorman – screenwriter, founding member of Save our Seas and Shores and grand prize winner of the Green Heroes Award was invited to present at the Citizens Climate Lobby first national conference. This recognition by a national NGO is an important breakthrough for our work in protecting the Gulf. Kudos to Mary Gorman!

New Glasgow News
Sueann Musick
November 14, 2013

MERIGOMISH, NSMj w signs – Mary Gorman will be taking her concerns over climate change and its effect on the ocean to a larger stage this weekend.

As founding member of the Save Our Seas and Shores coalition, Gorman will be a guest panelist at the Citizens Climate Lobbyists first national conference on Sunday in Gatineau, Que.

CCL is a growing organization of local volunteers in the United States and Canada in favour of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to help decrease the high amount of carbon emissions.

“The oceans are vast carbon sinks,” said Gorman. “In the 200 years since the industrial revolution began, our oceans have absorbed about 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into our atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the surface water and forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH of ocean waters. The more CO2 the oceans absorb, the more acidic they become. There are serious concerns about the ability of marine ecosystems to adapt to acidification. Organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons and shells will be greatly limited in their ability to form these outer protective shells. Commercial species such as lobster and shellfish are vulnerable to this impact.”

Gorman said the economy cannot continue to exist if government leaders ignore climate change. For example, she added, the Calgary floods and the recent typhoon in the Philippines are perfect examples of enormous costs if we don’t acknowledge that the climate is changing.

“What are natural disasters costing us?” she asked. “It is dumb economics to ignore our natural world. It is a giant credit card that is maxed out,” she said. “We can’t borrow anymore and we aren’t even making minimum payments.”

She said the conference is a good chance for her to inform people on a national level about the fragility of the ocean as well as share her views on the opposition to drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition says the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries deserve protection. The group wants the government to place a moratorium on oil and gas exploration so that these industries are not in jeopardy like those hurt in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer.

Other guest panelists at the conference include Dr. Shi-ling Hsu, author of The Case for a Carbon Tax, Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the anti-poverty organizations Results and current CEO for the Centre for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation as well as Celine Bak, president of Analytica Advisors and co-lead of The Canadian Clean Energy Coalition.

Cathy Orlando, national manager for Canada’s Citizens Climate Lobby, said Gorman was invited to be a guest speaker at the national conference because she supports a carbon tax and it will allow her to speak about her concerns in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

She said a carbon tax is levied on the carbon content of fuels such as coal, gas or oil and the extracted revenue is collected by the government and returned to Canadian citizens in the form of rebate cheque.

Experts believe the extra tax will force users of these fuels to cut down on their consumption in order to save money, alternatively looking at more natural sources of energy.

She said members at the conference and those of the CCL will be lobbying members of parliament to instate a carbon tax in Canada.

“Political will is keeping this from happening,” said Orlando. “There is a lot of fear in what a carbon tax will entail, but we know that we can have a low carbon economy and everyone can come out ahead.”

http://www.ngnews.ca/News/Local/2013-11-14/article-3481780/Local-coalition-member-attending-national-conference-on-climate/1

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Innu, Mi’gmaq and Maliseet form political coalition to protect Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas exploration

November 4th, 2013

GESPEG, QC,
Oct. 29, 2013
CNW Telbec

The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Chiefs announced today they have formed a Political Coalition to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the dangers posed by oil and gas exploration.

On October 23, 2013 the Chiefs signed – during the Chiefs Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador – a Memorandum of Understanding – see it here Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq National coalition for the protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence   setting out the Coalition’s main objectives:
• Speak with a common voice on issues related to the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
• Protect Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Title throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
• Prepare and table with the Government of Canada and the Government of Québec a joint Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Title Claim to the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
• Develop an Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Accord in response to the “Accord between the Government of Canada and the Government of Québec accord for the shared management of petroleum resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence”.

“Since time immemorial, the waters and shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been used and occupied by the Innu to the north and the Maliseet and Mi’gmaq to the south, for purposes including fishing, hunting, and travel. Our three peoples were the first trading partners of the French from the time that Champlain sailed into the Gulf’s waters over 400 years ago”, declared Chief Claude Jeannotte on behalf of Mi’gmawei Mawiomi.

“The tiny reserves the federal government set aside for the Innu, Maliseet and the Mi’gmaq out of their vast territory are now found around the Gulf, located in Québec, Labrador, on the Island of Newfoundland, in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Beyond those lands, however, our three peoples continue to use and occupy the waters of the Gulf, exercising their Aboriginal and treaty rights and the title that they have never surrendered”, declared Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho on behalf of the Innu Nation from Québec explained.

“These facts mean that we have rights that are recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Among other things, these rights mean that the federal and provincial governments are obliged to consult and accommodate us in order to avoid any irreparable harm to the exercise of our rights. Serious infringements of our rights require our consent” (1), declared Grand Chief Anne Archambault, on behalf of the Maliseet Nation.

About the Coalition: 
The Coalition is formed by the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations and intended to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the dangers posed by oil and gas exploration. The Coalition speaks with a common voice on issues related to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Coalition spokesperson are Chief of Gespeg Claude Jeannotte and the Executive Director of Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, Troy Jerome.

(1) Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2004] 3 SCR 511, para. 47, 24.

SOURCE: http://cnw.ca/0hU0
For further information:
Troy Jerome
Cell.: 1-506-759-2000
Email: tjerome[at]migmawei.ca

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Stopping the Flow – Series of talks in PEI highlights risks of oil drilling in St. Lawrence ~ The Guardian

October 16th, 2013

Stopping the flow
The Guardian
Jim Day
October 15, 2013

Series of talks in P.E.I. highlight risks of oil drilling in St. Lawrence

Sylvain Archambault has encountered his share of indifference towards oil and gas exploration and drilling.

The general public, he notes, often view the practice in a “very neutral way.”

Offer them with some cold, hard, disturbing facts, though, and they can quickly snap to attention, says Archambault.

(Click here for times and locations of talks)

He believes information – good, solid information – is the key to winning converts in a growing campaign to rally support to convince government to place a moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.

Archambault, who has a Masters in Science, co-founded the St. Lawrence Coalition in 2010 in the Magdalen Islands because “new projects by Corridor Resources was really giving concerns to the people.”

His coalition has since grown to 85 organizations with 4,500 individuals from all walks of life. Scientists, NGOs, tourism operators and fishermen are among the coalition members.

Archambault and his coalition have their sights set squarely on raising awareness of what he considers serious threats posed by the prospect of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“Our main purpose is to document things, inform the people, influence policy and try to gain a Gulf-wide moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” he said at a media conference in Charlottetown Tuesday.

“There is no rush in going in with oil and gas (exploration and drilling) in the Gulf and we definitely need a comprehensive public review – five provinces plus the federal (government) – to have a global look at this body of water.”

Archambault says Corridor Resources, a junior company with no offshore experience, is proposing to drill in the middle of one of the most productive channels of the entire Gulf in the “Old Harry” prospect between Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands.

“They have experience on land in New Brunswick – conventional gas, shale gas – but they have no offshore experience,” he says.

He adds the company continues to demonstrate an “arrogant attitude” towards environmental concerns.

Archambault is also concerned with the Quebec government repeatedly voicing its determination to go ahead with oil and gas exploration and perhaps even development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

He notes people often say Newfoundland is drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, so why not drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?

“It’s a very, very different picture,” he counters.

“Often the Atlantic is 350 kilometres from the shore…whereas in the Gulf it is a close ecosystem.”

Archambault is in Prince Edward Island this week as the featured speaker in a series of public meetings designed to raise awareness of the serious threats posed by oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The P.E.I. chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS P.E.I.) are hosting the series. They are also providing along with Archambault a diverse panel to offer information and to answer questions from the public.

One panelist, marine scientist Irené Novaczek, says the Gulf of St. Lawrence has already been heavily impacted by climate change contributing to the northern cod and the groundfish being “fished down” to a precariously low level.

“Now you add to that more industrial pollution from oil and gas extraction and increased ultra violet light from a thinning ozone layer, you have set yourself up a scenario where the Gulf of St. Lawrence could flip from a precariously healthy ecosystem – damaged that it is now – to a dead zone,” says Novaczek, who serves as an SOSS scientific advisor.

“Industrial activity could be enough to push it over the edge.”

Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, says there has been a lack of consultation with the fishing community in Atlantic Canada.

“I need to have some more answers before I even look at this thing,” he says.

“We need a moratorium on this thing right now until we…find out what is going on.”

P.E.I. tourism operator Peter Baker fears a spill of any kind, with even the perception that oil would wash ashore in P.E.I., would be a dagger to the heart of the province’s tourism industry.

Archambault notes that the Gulf’s unique, biodiverse ecosystem supports a multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries.

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Cradled on the Waves: The Gulf at Risk ~~ October 15-18, PEI

September 26th, 2013

SOSS poster - October 14-18 2013-page-0

 

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/575211705860496/

Read here what The Guardian news of PEI says about the issue and these public talks.

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Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and Gulf NS Herring Federation response to SEA report

September 18th, 2013

Sept 18, 2013

Scott Tessier
Chair and CEO
Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board
Fifth Floor, TD Place
140 Water St.
St. John’s, NL A1C 6H6

Dear Mr. Tessier:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the CNLOPB’s  Strategic Environmental Assessment Update for western NL(2013).

We are very, very disappointed by the narrow, inadequate terms of reference for this SEA Update report, and the subsequent deficiencies in this environmental assessment.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a vital, sensitive ecosystem of great marine diversity, productivity and importance to the coastal communities of NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL. It is also a globally significant ecosystem in fragile health due to  ocean acidification and hypoxia that requires immediate protection from further industrial development as well as restorative actions to maintain its sustainability.

Because the stakes are so high, a Strategic Environmental Assessment in the Gulf  must  be transparent, include extensive Gulf wide public engagement and seriously acknowledge the unknown implications from many gaps in scientific knowledge and understanding of how this complex ecosystem functions.

The acknowledgement in this SEA report of vulnerable marine mammals, rare turtles, lobster, krill, herring, capelin, redfish and plaice, to name a few, and cod ─ of special concern ─ in the designated western NL area, PROVES  that this marine region is too sensitive a body of water for offshore oil and gas seismic surveys and exploratory drilling to proceed. We will explain more but first, we have to be honest and specific with you.

The public consultation process was severely flawed.  For example, SOSS Coalition and the Gulf NS Herring Federation did not receive an invitation to the meetings held at the Board’s discretion in Sydney NS, even though our ongoing efforts over the past three years helped to generate these very consultations.  SOSS’ PEI Branch was similarly excluded from the stakeholder meeting in Charlottetown. The public event on PEI was poorly and briefly advertised, and hidden in the basement of a hotel far from the coastal communities that will face the greatest risks from petroleum development.

1)      The report on the Public Consultations in this SEA is very difficult to evaluate and in our opinion, grossly understates  the obvious lack of social acceptance by those of us who live near and rely upon the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It makes light of our deep concerns for our sustainable environment, livelihoods, culture, property values and quality of life.

2)      The SEA understates and does not adequately address the short and long term risk factors of offshore development and exploratory drilling at Old Harry, in western NL and throughout the Gulf. These shortfalls stem from the narrow terms of reference and cookie cutter approach of this assessment, e.g., the SEA only addresses the limited scientific knowledge we have about the waters within the man-made boundaries of the NL portion of our Gulf.

3)      The SEA disregards the long and short term, cumulative negative impacts of chronic exploitation and degradation that this development would bring to the coastlines and waters of western NL and throughout our Gulf.

4)      It does not address the inability to ‘mitigate’ an oil spill in a Nor’easter under winter ice (or any time of year),  in a semi-enclosed sea with five provincial coastlines, chronic strong winds and tides, and counter-clockwise currents that only flush into the Atlantic once a year. The counter-clockwise currents could carry pollutants to the coasts of every province in Atlantic Canada over the course of a year.

5)      The SEA does not address the inevitability of increasingly erratic, severe weather patterns, hurricanes and ocean storms due to the acceleration of climate change, nor does it explain how to clean up any spill that could occur during such a storm.

6)      The SEA does not offer a solution to the lack of preparedness to respond to an oil spill by Canada’s Coast Guard, the CNLOPB and the offshore oil and gas industry –
(Canada’s offshore oil spill response outdated, audits found http://cbc.sh/qTBpiXe )

7)      It does not deal with the issue of liability and compensation to stakeholders negatively impacted by an oil spill ─ people whose livelihoods could be destroyed. For instance, herring fishermen in Alaska near where the Exxon Valdez spill happened have not seen the herring come back 22 years later.

8)      The other fatal weakness of this assessment is that it does not acknowledge or address ocean acidification and hypoxia in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or deal with how fragile the Gulf’s productivity and health are at this point in time.

According to DFO’s State of the Oceans reports (2010 and 2012), in the Gulf of St. Lawrence:

“Recent and historical data reveal that hypoxia is progressively worsening in the deep waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, especially at the heads of the Laurentian, Anticosti and Esquiman channels. The lowest levels of dissolved oxygen were recorded in the Laurentian Channel, where measurements have routinely been in the range of 20% saturation since the mid-1980s.”

What is Hypoxia?

“Around the world, marine hypoxia — a shortage of dissolved oxygen — is a growing problem that can have dramatic impacts on marine life and ecosystems. A decline in oxygen in seawater is now recognized as one of the likely consequences of global warming, because warmer water does not hold as much oxygen…”

According to DFO’s Impacts of Emerging Climate Issues:

“Low oxygen (hypoxia) has dramatic impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and the tolerance of marine fish and invertebrates to this condition is highly species dependent. At oxygen levels below 30 percent saturation, cod and other species that are intolerant of hypoxia either migrate to other geographic regions or die. Deoxygenation is now recognized as one of the likely consequences of climate change. The long term observations analyzed by DFO scientists have provided insight into climate change over the decades and the growing knowledge and awareness of hypoxia (dead zones) in Canadian waters”.

We conclude that hypoxia has reduced the resilience of the Gulf and its inhabitants, compromising the ability of the ecosystem to cope with further degradation such as seismic blasting, chronic pollution from offshore rigs, and related marine traffic.

What is Ocean Acidification?

According to DFO’s Impacts of Emerging Climate Issues:

“The earth’s oceans are vast carbon sinks. In the 200 years since the industrial revolution began, the oceans have absorbed about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by the burning of fossil fuels. But this climatic benefit has come at a cost. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the surface water and forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH of ocean waters. The more CO2 the ocean absorbs, the more acidic they will become. There are serious concerns about the ability of marine ecosystems to adapt to acidification. Organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons and shells, such as coccolithophores and pteropods (food source for salmon), will be greatly limited in their ability to form their outer protective shells since a decline in pH decreases the saturation state of CaCO3. Commercial species such as lobster and shellfish are also vulnerable to this impact.”

According to DFO’s State of the Oceans report:

“Ocean acidification is a global threat with potential impacts on marine food webs, ecosystem productivity, commercial fisheries and global food security. This threat has prompted the international scientific community, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to investigate the implications of this significant international governance issue.

Each year, about one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in fossil fuel emissions dissolves in ocean surface waters, forming carbonic acid and increasing ocean acidity. Over the next century or so, acidification will be intensified near the surface where much of the marine life that humans depend upon live.

The ocean surface is becoming more acidic with increasing atmospheric CO2, and acidity has increased by about 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Estimates of future carbon dioxide levels, based on “business as usual” CO2 emission scenarios, indicate that by the end of this century, the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150% more acidic, resulting in a pH (a measure of acidity) that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20-million years and raising serious concerns about the ability of marine organisms to adapt. This scenario is based on information provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Monitoring ocean acidification and assessing its potential impacts are essential to the development of an ecosystem approach to managing the marine resources that are likely to be affected by this global threat.”

While ocean acidity levels are increasing by 30% globally, DFO estimates that ocean acidity levels have increased by 50 – 90% in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  There is scant knowledge about how reduced oxygen and increasing acidity interact with increased loading of petroleum products and other persistent organic pollutants.  Additionally,  ultraviolet light, which enhances the toxicity of pollutants in the marine environment, has increased owing to the depletion of atmospheric ozone in recent decades, and it is clear that the Gulf requires protection from any further assault.  Rather, its vulnerability calls for immediate restorative action.

Conclusions:

The SOSS Coalition notes that this environmental assessment is important because it will provide the framework to determine whether offshore development should proceed in Canada’s ecologically sensitive Gulf, whose beauty and bounty annually supports multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries across five provinces.

We believe the CNLOPB has not met its responsibility as an ‘independent regulator’ because the assessment does not conform with the Ecosystem and Precautionary mandates of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, and Canada’s Oceans Act.  The narrow terms of reference fail to recognize the vulnerable state of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and also, ignore the reality that offshore drilling will negatively impact areas beyond the constantly moving waters of the designated offshore leases in western NL.

We maintain that the concerns voiced by the people of the Gulf deserve a fair, impartial hearing. The BP Deepwater Horizon, an exploratory well that went horribly wrong, shows that serious long-term impacts do occur, especially during exploration. Three and a half years after the BP disaster, with billions of dollars spent, only 3% of the oil has been recovered from the Gulf of Mexico and shrimp are now surfacing deformed, with no eyes. We also know that herring fishermen in Alaska near the Exxon Valdez spill site have still not seen the herring come back, 22 years later. We have to prevent disasters like these from happening here.

We are extremely concerned that the federal government is dismantling environmental regulations governing petroleum development instead of strengthening them, and we are left at the mercy of unelected provincial petroleum boards. These boards have conflicting mandates for petroleum industry development, worker safety and environmental health.  In our coalition’s opinion, the structure of these Boards enables the focus to be more on development, backed up by industry consultants who focus on ‘mitigation’ of negative impacts, instead of protecting vulnerable and poorly understood ecosystems from development.

Three years after the Wells inquiry, the CNLOPB still has not implemented Justice Wells’ recommendation that a separate regulator for safety and the environment be established, in spite of subsequent safety incidents on NL rigs. The Board’s unwillingness to take this particular recommendation seriously makes it difficult for us to trust in this process or to feel that the CNLOPB is functioning as a neutral regulator to protect the long term public interest.

We can’t help but question the neutrality and judgement of the CNLOPB when it has hired the global giant, AMEC to conduct this SEA.  AMEC is one of the world’s leading engineering, project management and consultancy companies whose clients include BP and Shell. According to the company’s website, “Our shares are traded on the London stock exchange where the company is included in the FTSE 100 Index and listed in the Oil Equipment and Services Sector. We offer services which extend from environmental and front end engineering design before the start of a project to decommissioning at the end of an asset’s life.”

Therefore, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and the Gulf NS Herring Federation want to state on the public record that:

The SEA Update Report of Western NL 2013 is not an accurate assessment of the designated area. While it acknowledges the diversity of marine life and thus, the sensitivity of these waters, it understates the paucity of scientific understanding of the ecosystem, the gaps in knowledge and data, and the lack of social sanction for exploration in the Gulf.

Further, it does not prioritize or even place in context the ecological fragility of the Gulf of St. Lawrence due to ocean acidification and hypoxia; and it diminishes the socio-economic and cultural importance of the renewable fishing and tourism livelihoods, people, animals, recreation, coastal communities, and vulnerable ecosystems throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence that could be negatively impacted by offshore oil and gas development at Old Harry and in western NL.

In our opinion, this type of cookie cutter SEA, conducted by only one of the five affected jurisdictions and without substantive public engagement, is not only inadequate, it is unethical.  It minimizes the dangerous, and perhaps irrevocable, negative impacts that offshore oil and gas development could have on vulnerable marine life and on the tens of thousands of fishing and tourism jobs, in hundreds of coastal communities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In the fragile waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, marine species spawn, nurse and migrate year around.  Given the sensitivity of the Gulf, and given that the Gulf’s historic stakeholders (inshore fishermen, coastal landowners, small business/tourism operators and First Nations among others) have survived for centuries on this globally significant ecosystem, we submit that it is unreasonable and unethical to proceed with offshore oil and gas development.

We wish to remind the CNLOPB  and the governments of Canada and the five Atlantic provinces that if the offshore oil and gas industry is sincere about ‘co-existence’, it must concede that some bodies of water are too sensitive for offshore oil and gas development ─  including the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which is a semi-enclosed sea that has already suffered significant degradation. How safe are larvae, spawn and all the sensitive life stages of marine organisms, if all of the waters that marine species breed in are up for grabs by the offshore oil and gas industry?  We are convinced that our Gulf needs to be protected by a moratorium on petroleum exploration, coupled with efforts to conserve and restore the ecosystem.

We wish to remind you that even with moratoria in the Gulf of St Lawrence and Georges Bank, the offshore oil industry would still have access to over 88% of Canada’s East coast waters.

We are recommending that the CNLOPB refrain from any and all development in the waters along the western coast of NL and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and work inter-provincially and with the federal government to develop a Gulf-wide, arms-length and truly independent Environmental Review Panel process that will allow for effective and respectful public consultation.  The scope of such a process must be open to public debate, and the process must conform to the highest international standards for strategic environmental assessment in sensitive and globally significant ecosystems.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Gorman Save Our Sea and Shores Coalition, Merigomish NS
Greg Egilsson Chairman, Gulf NS Herring Federation, Pictou NS
Dr. Irene Novaczek, marine biologist, Breadalbane PEI

Cc:

The Hon. Joe Oliver MP / Minister of Natural Resources
The Hon. Leona Aglukkaq MP / Minister of Environment
The Hon. Gail Shea MP / Minister of Fisheries
The Hon. Peter MacKay MP / Minister of Justice
The Hon. Thomas Mulcair MP / Leader of the Official Opposition
Justin Trudeau MP / Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Elizabeth May MP / Leader of the Green Party of Canada
Wayne Easter MP
Lawrence MacAulay MP
Rodger Cuzner MP
Sean Casey MP
Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
Darryl Dexter, Premier of NS
Robert Ghiz, Premier of PEI
Pauline Marois, Premier of Quebec
David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
Charlie Parker, NS Minister of Energy
Clarrie Mackinnon MLA Pictou East

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