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.
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.
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.
“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
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
November 14, 2013
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.”
Oct. 29, 2013
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),  3 SCR 511, para. 47, 24.
For further information:
Stopping the flow
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.
Sept 18, 2013
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.
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.
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
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
By Michael Harris
Jul 14, 2013
“I am on permanent call by God.”
That is how Farley Mowat at 92, bearded, blue-eyed, and bemused, describes his presence in the waiting-room of eternity.
This should be a time to make morning tea for his wife, Claire, listen to the bullfrogs harrumphing in the two ponds on his 200-acre sanctuary in River Bourgeois Cape Breton, and reflect on the closet-full of books in his study, all 44 of them, that he has written over an extraordinary life.
Instead, he has donned his literary armour and is riding out to face yet another dragon threatening the beauty and balance of nature – a proposed deep water oil-drilling operation in the heart of the Gulf of St. Lawrence – a project given the innocuous name “Old Harry.”
“I am doing this against my will in a way, getting involved at this time in life when I might get the Big Call tomorrow. But the bastards who have set this thing in motion are taking a perverse pleasure in doing it and must be opposed. They have decided to call their development “Old Harry”. The great swindle, you know, to give it a nice name that conjures up Uncle Harry. I suspect that they don’t know that in literature, ‘Old Harry’ is a synonym for the devil.”
Metaphysical resonances notwithstanding, the five provinces that border the proposed development would have hell to pay if there were ever a spill like the one that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico at BP’s Deep Water Horizon rig.
That’s because the channels and straits that make up the Gulf of St. Lawrence move in a counter-clockwise fashion, which means that the vast area is only flushed into the wider ocean once a year. Spilled oil would ride the mostly landlocked Gulf currents for a long time. That would put thousands of species, some of them already endangered, like the Blue Whale, at greater risk.
Making matters potentially worse, the site of the proposed development is the deep Laurentian Channel, the main artery in and out of the Gulf for 2,200 marine species – including Blue whale, Right whale and Leatherback turtle.
In Canada’s pending Gulf War, Farley Mowat, lone-wolf and single-handed crusader, has a strong ally this time. Mary Gorman, a lobster fisherman’s wife turned unpaid activist, has been battling to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence for 25 years.
“I like her because she’s got guts,” Mowat says, “and I trust her instincts. Mary is a daughter of the Gulf, one of the animals who lives here. She senses what is coming”.
In 1988, Gorman led the Battle of Boat Harbour to stop a local mill from dumping 26 million gallons of effluent into the Northumberland Strait near Pictou Landing First Nations community.
“I like her because she’s got guts,” Mowat says, “and I trust her instincts. Mary is a daughter of the Gulf, one of the animals who lives here. She senses what is coming.”
With Elizabeth May, she co-founded the Save our Seas and Shoreline Coalition to challenge oil and gas leases that had been granted off the pristine shores of Cape Breton Island.
Gorman says that the federal government has literally passed responsibility for protecting marine habitat to the very people who favour development, virtually erasing the line between industry and government.
“How did the protection of marine habitat end up in the hands of the offshore petroleum industry?” Gorman asked. “As it stands now, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada have signed memorandum of understanding with offshore boards deferring DFO and EC’s marine protection to these boards.”
(In April 2011, Gorman was voted a Canadian Green Hero. A documentary produced by Cinefocus Canada and based on Gorman’s fight to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence will air on TVO on July 16 at 7:30 pm and again on July 21 at 8:30 pm. Mowat appears in the film.)
As for Gorman’s question, Farley Mowat thinks he knows why government has abdicated protection of the environment to bodies representing the petroleum industry. Sipping his illicit glass of chardonnay (his doctor has forbidden it), he says something has gone wrong with our national fermentation process; instead of wine, we are now producing vinegar as a country.
“Under the current system, the environment and resource development cannot be reconciled. The ones in power just don’t think the right way. It’s as if we are being governed by an alien species. It’s as if something rises from the Ottawa River and affects them all. They become zombies.”
Nor does Mowat believe that the anti-environment phenomenon is exclusive to the Canadian government.
“Governments worldwide do their best to diminish it, belittle it, until it gradually melts away. The policy now is to crucify the environment. Peter Kent wasn’t even a good illusion of an environment minister.”
Our interview is put on hold with the arrival of Mark, who is in charge of maintenance at the local fishplant. Farley tells him about the electrical switch that needs fixing and the gaps around the upstairs windows that are letting the ants in. As they talk, I take a slow inventory of the room full of memories of the author’s life – shells, bones, a silver mermaid, and the light fixture in the living room which has a desiccated hornet’s nest where the light bulb should be. Before he leaves, Mark comments on Farley’s list of tasks.
“As you always tell me, this house is rotting from the top down.”
My puckish host returns seamlessly to the matter we had been discussing. To make his point about how governments work to discredit environmentalists, Mowat talks admiringly of his friend Paul Watson, who is now a fugitive from international justice. The author says the warrant against Watson from Costa Rica is trumped up with the connivance of Japan and countries like Canada.
“All he tried to do was keep the Japanese from whaling in protected areas. Now there is an Interpol red alert on Paul and he is a stateless person sailing on the high seas in the South Pacific. The only place he can land is deserted atolls inhabited by hermit crabs.”
But there was one other place he did land while he was being pursued and before he took to sea – the farmhouse looking out to sea from a hill on Grand Gulley Road at River Bourgeoise – the Mowat retreat.
We walk into his main-floor writing room (a stately Underwood manual typewriter commands the desk) and I stop in front of a faded wanted poster, front-on and in profile, of Farley Mowat hanging on the wall.
“No one in Canada knows this but I entertained Paul when the authorities were looking for him and didn’t know where he was. The same authorities, I might add, who used to listen to my phone calls when they saw me as a ‘left-wing rebel.’ I just laughed about it and said ‘Good morning chaps’ whenever I used the phone.”
We walk into his main-floor writing room (a stately Underwood manual typewriter commands the desk) and I stop in front of a faded wanted poster, front-on and in profile, of Farley Mowat hanging on the wall. He laughs and tells me that it was Jack McClelland’s idea after Mowat was prevented from entering the U.S. on a book tour.
“Oh yeah, Farley My Discovery of America! They let me into Siberia to talk about my work but not the United States. I wrote the thing in three weeks. Fastest book I ever wrote.”
There is a dinner of home-made quiche and a salad made from greens from the Mowats’ fenced garden on the hillside, and a little of the forbidden chardonnay. Sea-shell pink peonies pose lavishly in their vase. I mention the photograph of Pierre Trudeau and Mowat in the living room. There is always a story.
“You know Pierre and Margaret came to visit us in the Magdalen Islands. He was travelling quietly that day – showed up in an ice-breaker and came ashore by helicopter. Margaret was pregnant with Justin. Just before dinner, I asked Pierre if he wanted to walk the grounds. I had half an acre planted in hemp seeds given to me by the mayor of Port Hope. Trudeau knew what they were but made no comment until I asked him what he thought of the grounds. “It’s a fine garden, Farley, but isn’t it time you cut your grass?”
Before I left, my host asked simply “Care for something to read?” I was escorted back into his study, where he opened the closet door where his books stood in a long, lovely line. I chose And No Bird Sang, his reminisces of the war when Captain Mowat bedevilled authority.
The war goes on and he still does.
Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His eight books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. He is currently working on a book about the Harper majority government to be published in the autumn of 2014 by Penguin Canada.
Farley Mowat is hopping mad: a pox upon the oil companies for sinking wells in his beloved Gulf of St. Lawrence
There is no denying the amount of fight still left in Farley Mowat. Just let him get going on the “evil forces” who are sacrificing the environment in their lust for oil.
The writer, conservationist and conversationalist, who completed what he declared to be his final book nearly three years ago at the age of 89, is irate. A proposal to put an offshore oil and gas well in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will not go away, and Mr. Mowat is aghast at the depths of human folly.
Back in 1984, he wrote a book called Sea of Slaughter that detailed a litany of environmental wrongs in the gulf and on the Atlantic seaboard. The looming development, known as the Old Harry Prospect, holds the potential to unleash more of the same, Mr. Mowat said this week in a telephone interview from Cape Breton, where he and his wife, Claire, spend their summers.
“I was so appalled by what I discovered when I wrote this book, I could hardly believe that human beings could be so thoughtless, so destructive, so devilish, just plain devilish, all in pursuit of money,” he said of Sea of Slaughter. “It took me five years to write the damn thing, and I have never been able to fully reread it since, I get so upset about it.”
The spit and vinegar that surfaces whenever Mr. Mowat broaches environmental matters is what prompted those who oppose drilling in the gulf to enlist him in their effort – that and, of course, his literary celebrity.
The Old Harry is a 30-kilometre stretch of the Laurentian Channel off the southwest coast of Newfoundland that could be the largest untapped oil and gas reserve in Eastern Canada. Corridor Resources, a Canadian oil and natural gas company, has held licences to assess its potential since 1996, and wants to drill an exploratory well by 2014.
The name Old Harry was taken from a settlement on the nearby Magdalen Islands. “The oil companies mistakenly – and I think this is wickedly sardonic – have called it Old Harry because they liked the sound of Old Harry. It has such a familiar, pleasant, uncle-y name,” Mr. Mowat said. But Old Harry is sailors’ soubriquet for Satan, he said. “They don’t realize that, what they are doing, is they are calling their company after the devil’s own domain.”
Mr. Mowat is one of the subjects of Tuesday’s season-ending episode of Cinefocus Canada’s Green Heroes, a TVO series that profiles environmental luminaries. Another is Mary Gorman, the fisherman’s wife turned activist who conscripted Mr. Mowat in her fight against the Old Harry.
Ms. Gorman and her Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition have been challenging the project with everything they can muster, arguing that a spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could cause a disaster on a scale even larger than the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 that killed 11 people and spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days.
Mr. Mowat and his wife summered near the Old Harry Prospect for several years, so when Ms. Gorman called for help three years ago, “I consulted myself and decided I owed something physically to that region,” he said. His environmental foundation donated some money to the cause. And he lent his own voice in opposition.
After the Deepwater catastrophe, “the almost certainty that it would happen again sooner or later in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was really enough to fire me to passionate action,” Mr. Mowat said, although he concedes he may not be responding now with the vigour of his earlier years. “At 90, when this all started, I was reaching my peak. And now I have passed that.”
It is true that, when he talks to a reporter, he has to sit to collect his thoughts. He also is unavailable in the afternoons because he likes his naps. But don’t think he is ready to lie down in the face of what he considers to be environmental sin.
“Not only did Farley fight for Canada in World War Two, he has been fighting ever since to protect our world’s vast oceans that were once brimming with wildlife,” Ms. Gorman said. “He will go down in history, not only as a literary icon, but as one of the world’s earliest and bravest environmentalists, who understands how dependent we humans are on healthy oceans, for oxygen and for life on earth.”
Corridor opted not to comment on the statements Mr. Mowat made for this article. Who wants to challenge Farley Mowat at 92?
But Mr. Mowat does not need an opponent in his ring to come out swinging.
“We don’t need any more oil than we’ve got,” he said. “We’re up to our ass in oil of one type or another – fracking and bracking and all the rest of it – and freight cars full of it coming down on little Quebec towns.”
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.