Category Archives: Seismic Blasting

Australian fishermen blame costly tuna and scallop losses on seismic testing

April 25th, 2013

Seismic testing in fishers’ sights
Sydney Morning Herald
Andrew Darby
April 24, 2013 – 4:33PM

Commercial fishers are asking for seismic testing in Australian waters to be declared an environmental threat, in a move opposed by the petroleum industry.

The fishers were spurred to act by costly losses including Bass Strait scallop mortality and disrupted migration of southern bluefin tuna, which they blamed on seismic testing.

The Commonwealth Fisheries Association is taking up a tool used against fishers in the past, and asking the federal government to declare seismic testing a key threatening process.

Seismic arrays towed behind vessels fire airguns to bounce bubbles off the seabed and return a profile of the geology beneath.

Testing by Geoscience Victoria for possible carbon storage below Bass Strait in 2010 is alleged to have cost scallop fishers 24,000 tonnes of the shellfish, worth $70 million.

“No other abnormal factor could have caused the deaths of these scallops,” said Bob Lister, executive director of the Tasmanian Scallop Fishermen’s Association.

A southern bluefin tuna survey in the Great Australian Bight to set fishing quotas for the threatened species showed numbers crashing at the same time BP conducted a seismic survey there for oil and gas.

“This was exactly the period when bluefin were on their migratory path,” said Brian Jeffriess, chief executive of the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association.

“They absolutely collapsed from around 22,000 tonnes to 3000 tonnes, and this year the raw data shows they are back up to 22,000 tonnes,” Mr Jeffriess said. “Fishers rightly say to me that it must be the seismic [testing].”

In BP’s Bight exploration program, the vessel Ramform Sterling towed 12 streamers, each eight kilometres long, making it Earth’s largest man-made moving object, the company said.

Together with scallops and bluefin, the CFA has nominated seven other species that could become vulnerable or more highly endangered: black jewfish, arrow squid, scampi, blue warehou, orange roughy, gemfish and the loggerhead turtle.

The CFA’s chairman, Martin Exel, said there was enough anecdotal and scientific evidence to seek a determination from the government that seismic testing did have an impact, requiring its use to take fishers into account.

“For whales and other cetaceans, already there is no question that they are considered,” Mr Exel said. “A human is not even supposed to be in the water within five miles of seismic testing.”

In Canada, seismic surveys must be planned to avoid dispersing spawning or migratory fish.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said it was surprised by the nomination, which was not supported by evidence or science.

“In fact, more than five decades of experience and research shows no evidence that sound from oil and gas exploration activities causes injury to marine species or ecological communities or behavioural effects that would affect the viability of any marine animal population,” an APPEA spokesman said.

“And unlike the activities of other industries [such as fishing itself], there is no scientific evidence that would suggest oil and gas exploration activity has detrimental impacts on fisheries or fish stocks.”

The CFA’s application has been lodged with the government’s threatened species scientific committee, which will consider making a recommendation to Environment Minister Tony Burke.

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Why NS should protect Gulf waters

March 20th, 2013

Minister makes “inaccurate” comments in meeting
March 20, 2013
Advocate (Pictou, NS)

To the Editor re: “Oil spill, clean up report raises Gulf group’s fears” (Advocate March 6, 2013), I want to correct inaccurate comments made by Energy Minister Charlie Parker.

1) “Parker acknowledges that Gorman was given considerable time to discuss the moratorium.”
 For the record, my first question was not about the Gulf of St. Lawrence moratorium. I asked Parker what he intends to do about the billion dollar Shell lease he has approved on NS’s Scotian Shelf. The seismic program for this lease, beginning next month, is for four to six months from April to September each year for the next six years, during fishing seasons, spawning, bluefin tuna migration etc. It covers over a million hectares of ocean bottom. We’ve been told that in a few years, there will only be two populations left on the Scotian Shelf – gray seals and oil rigs. (WARNING: Our Gulf could be next).

2) The ‘considerable time’ Parker refers to, was three minutes. So I guess Gulf NS’s inshore breeding grounds are only worth three minutes of discussion at NDP gov’t public meetings. To be fair, our coalition did meet privately for 25 minutes with the county’s three NDP MLA’s about protecting our Gulf. But we were only able to cover one page of our presentation because these MLAs are not good listeners. 
In contrast, MP Peter MacKay met with us for one hour and 20 minutes, listened intently, asked intelligent questions, acknowledged the danger of risking sensitive breeding areas and renewable multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries, only to access short term fossil fuels. He agreed to follow up on it.

3) “‘Parker also said the province has made no decision on a moratorium in the Gulf.’ “In reality, we don’t have a position,” he said.’ 
We’re relieved he is backtracking. But at the Antigonish meeting Parker, Deputy Minister Coolican and MLA Maurice Smith were asked if the NDP would support a moratorium in Gulf NS. All 3 said “NO”. (It’s on the public record).

In ‘reality’, Parker signed a petition a decade ago for a moratorium in our Gulf when we were fighting shoreline leases on Cape Breton Island. Perhaps, because he knows the Gulf of St. Lawrence has the largest lobster production in the world. But “little or no information is available… on lobster larval distribution and settlement” * according to DFO scientists.

Gulf fishers are also worried about herring if oil and gas proceeds. Since 20 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, there is still no herring fishery where that oil spill happened in Alaska.
 DFO scientists have stated “every month of the year molting, spawning, egg hatching, larvae, feeding, migration, juveniles, adults, and planktonic stages are happening”.*

This is why Canada’s Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in their report on Canada’s Oceans Act (October 2001) stated “it may be prudent to consider placing this region under an oil and gas moratorium similar to that on the Georges Bank region”.

So why are we fighting this same battle 10 years later?

It is ironic that before Parker was elected, he supported a moratorium. But now that he has the power as Energy Minister to implement one, he chooses to squander this privilege and unique opportunity to protect those who put their faith in him.
 What a kick in the head to Gulf inshore fishers who have a long history as leaders in conservation of their own stocks. They do so, knowing that if they protect their fish, we will continue to have a fishery sustaining hundreds of coastal communities and tens of thousands of jobs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 
Unless, of course, it is destroyed by others.

*DFO Maritime Provinces Regional Habitat Status Report 2001

Mary Gorman, 
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition
, Merigomish

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Shell seismic survey could affect bluefin tuna (Chronicle Herald)

March 8th, 2013

Ottawa: Shell survey could affect bluefin tuna
March 8, 2013
Chronicle Herald
By Joann Alberstat

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.

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Gulf NS Herring Federation and SOSS submission to Strategic Environmental Assessment

October 22nd, 2012

Gulf NS Herring and SOSS Sea submission – CNLOPB – 3

Submission to Western NL Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) by Gulf NS Herring Federation and Save Our Seas and Shores, October 22, 2012. Authors Greg Egilsson (President – Gulf NS Herring Federation) and Mary Gorman (Save Our Seas and Shores). The 5 page submission critiques the flawed public process, which falls far short of what Environment Minister Peter Kent ordered, and addresses:

  • the historical involvement of Save Our Seas and Shores in protecting the Gulf from oil and gas development
  • background facts on the inshore fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • precautionary principle
  • current science and knowledge gaps about the ecosystem
  • mitigation myths
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Drilling for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence without a clue (Toronto Star editorial)

August 5th, 2012

Drilling for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence without a clue
Toronto Star
August 05, 2012

Buried within the more than 400 pages of this spring’s federal omnibus budget bill is an invitation for resource companies to open a new frontier in Canadian oil: the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The gulf, which touches the coastlines of Canada’s five easternmost provinces, is the world’s largest estuary. It’s home to more than 2,000 species of marine wildlife — an ecosystem integral to the health of our Atlantic and Great Lakes fisheries.

Now, due to measures deep in the federal budget, that ecosystem may be under threat. The bill explicitly highlights the region’s potential for petroleum extraction and includes amendments to the Coasting Trade Act that give oil companies greater access to exploration vessels.

Corridor Resources Inc., a small Halifax-based company, is seeking to take advantage of the budget’s deregulation by applying to drill the first-ever deep-water well in the gulf. It’s just what the budget bill sought — and just what scientists and concerned citizens in the region have been fighting for years.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sounded the alarm last week, warning Canadians about the dangers of the project. A spill in the gulf would be a particular disaster, scientists who accompanied her said, because, due to the estuary’s counterclockwise tidal currents, it empties into the Atlantic only once per year. That means oil would almost certainly reach five coastlines, affecting land and livelihoods in all provinces touching on the gulf.

Even if no oil is spilled, the seismic method of exploration that Corridor proposes can be disfiguring or deadly for the gulf’s inhabitants.

“Marine mammals and fish are highly impacted by seismic surveys,” said Lindy Weilgart, a biologist at Dalhousie University. “To carry out this destruction in as productive and biologically rich an area as the gulf is madness.”

Of course, there’s a debate to be had about how to negotiate between the economic benefits and environmental hazards of offshore oil. But for defenders of the gulf, it seems no debate is available.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which is responsible for evaluating Corridor’s proposal by July 2013, will have no way of measuring the nature or extent of the environmental risks. The budget rescinded the requirement for environmental assessments of exploratory drilling and crippled the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, the federal agency best equipped to deliver such assessments.

The federal government has picked oil and brushed aside concerns about the environment — and all this buried within the behemoth budget bill. If the government insists that we risk a rich and important ecosystem for the prospect of underwater oil, it should not be allowed to sneak that choice past us in a footnote.–drilling-for-oil-in-the-gulf-of-st-lawrence-without-a-clue

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The Gulf of St. Lawrence will soon hear oil industry’s boom: Greens ( iPolitics)

August 2nd, 2012

The Gulf of St. Lawrence will soon hear oil industry’s boom: Greens

James Munson
2 August 2012

Over the phone, Lindy Weilgart plays a recording of the sonic blasts oil companies use to explore for fossil fuels beneath the seabed.

The muffled low-frequency buzz sounds ominous but much quieter than what a whale or a dolphin, which use sounds to mate and hunt, would hear in the ocean, said Weilgart, an internationally recognized expert in the field at Dalhousie University.

“These are extremely high pressure air guns that release an amount of air, and that cause a hugely loud sound,” said Weilgart.

The sound of the air gun’s explosion has to travel through the ocean, then through hundreds of kilometers of bedrock and finally all the way back up to the surface, where it’s recorded.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence, an inland sea home to blue whales, humpback whales, belugas and countless kinds of fish, has remained largely free of these sounds in the past.

But things are about to get loud, said Weilgart.

As part of Ottawa’s push to boost Canada’s petroleum sector, the contentious spring budget included measures to turn the Gulf into a new oil frontier despite little success in the past and worries among coastal communities in four provinces that an oil slick could destroy fisheries and ecosystems. The budget measures received royal assent in late June.

Now the federal Green Party is trying to rally opposition to oil and gas exploration. Leader Elizabeth May, who began her own career in environmental advocacy in the Maritimes, hosted a news conference in Halifax this morning on the risks of oil exploration.

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is inappropriate for oil and gas development,” said May in a phone interview after the news conference. “It should be a no-go zone.”

The Gulf is home to thousands of bird and fish species whose ecosystem would be irrevocably damaged by exploration or an accident, said Mary Gorman, the head of Save our Seas and Shoreline, an activist group focused on oil exploration around Nova Scotia.

The Gulf’s counter-clockwise currents only empty into the Atlantic once a year so an oil spill would spread over five coastlines during that time, she said.

Ottawa named the Gulf by name in its spring budget as a target region for petroleum exploration. The budget also amended the Coasting Trade Act so that foreign seismic exploration vessels can now travel in Canadian waters.

But it’s the Gulf’s environmental regulators that really have the Greens worried.

Four separate regulators work in the Gulf.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) govern the waters off those provinces’ coastlines.

The National Energy Board covers pretty much everything else, except for waters off the Quebec coast, which will soon be jointly managed by Ottawa and that province after they signed an agreement in 2011.

At the moment, oil exploration along Quebec appears to be quiet.

The provincial government is currently waiting to finish a study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, before allowing a moratorium on the exploration and extraction method to be lifted.

However, the minister in charge of natural resources indicated this week that onshore oil exploration on Anticosti Island, which sits in the northern part of the Gulf, will not be subject to a moratorium.

Most near-term conflicts over exploration will likely occur closer to the Atlantic provinces, where past exploration has taken place.

There is currently only one viable exploration site in the Gulf, Old Harry, off the southeastern coast of Newfoundland & Labrador, which received and environmental assessment from the CNLOPB last October.

“No significant residual adverse environmental effects, including cumulative environmental effects, will occur as a result of the Project,” says the assessment, which was outsourced to Stantec, an engineering firm.

The CNSOPB and the CNLOPB, created in the aftermath of petroleum discoveries off those provinces’ coastlines in the Atlantic Ocean, don’t have the technical capacity to perform environmental assessments, said Gorman.

“By the terms of their creation, they exist to promote offshore oil and gas exploration,” she said. “The idea that they’re going to do rigorous assessments is a joke.”

And, on top of that, Canada’s policy on seismic exploration and marine animals is not protective enough for a region teeming with as much wildlife as the Gulf, said Weilgart, the expert on marine animals and seismic blasts.

“Canada’s policy is appalling,” said Weilgart, who provided advice to the federal government in 2005 when the policy on the issue was created.

In Australia, if a seismic exploration vessel spots a marine mammal two kilometers away, it has to stop blasting, she said.

In Canada, that same condition kicks in only if the vessel spots a whale at 400 meters, she said. And it only applies to endangered species.

“It’s not precautionary at all,” said Weilgart,

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Threats Posed by Seismic Surveys – Dr. Lindy Weilgart

August 1st, 2012

Dr. Lindy Weilgart’s statement
Press conference: Green Party of Canada, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition
Halifax, NS
August 1, 2012

Seismic airgun surveys are loud enough to penetrate hundreds of kilometers into the ocean floor, the Earth’s crust, even after going through thousands of meters of ocean. They raise background noise 1,000-fold over areas the size of New Brunswick. Even 4,000 km away, they are the loudest part of background noise. It is therefore unsurprising that marine animals, who are almost all sensitive to sound, are highly impacted by such noise. Whales clear out of important areas, stop singing or calling (their way to find mates), shift their migration routes, and even strand and die, often bleeding from their eyes. Dolphins can go rigid and catatonic and drown in the wake of seismic surveys. Hearing cells in fish are ripped apart, deafening them, catch rates plummet, and fish clear out of the area. Squid suffer damage so severe their organs are unrecognizable, and snow crabs show organ abnormalities. Regarding environmental assessments, there is growing recognition in the scientific community that these should be as broad in area and scope as possible, encompassing whole ecosystems, rather than piecemeal, taking full account of the cumulative and synergistic effects of all the stressors faced by marine life, such as ocean acidification, climate change, toxins, hypoxic ‘dead’ zones, along with noise–all of which are already present in the Gulf. To carry out these destructive seismic surveys in as productive and biologically rich an area as the Gulf is madness. This is nothing short of an acoustic assault on this sensitive ecosystem.

Dr. Lindy Weilgart, a research associate in Biology at Dalhousie, has studied whale sounds and communication for 30 years. She has been very involved in the underwater noise issue for 20 years, serving on numerous expert panels and committees, advising both internationally (UN, NATO, European Commission) and nationally (Canada, U.S., German governments, among others). She has organized several scientific workshops and given many lectures on this topic, and published numerous peer-reviewed papers.

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Offshore exploration ban sought – Seismic blasts harm whales, says scientist (Chronicle Herald)

August 1st, 2012

Offshore exploration ban sought
Seismic blasts harm whales, says scientist

Bill Power
Business Reporter
The Chronicle Herald
1 August 2012

An ear-splitting recording of a seismic blast, and a disturbing image of a whale bleeding from its eyes.

These audio-visual tools became part of the opposition war chest Wednesday, as yet another call was heard for an exploration and drilling moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“When a whale hears a seismic blast, it panics and falls out of its normal diving pattern, sometimes with catastrophic results,” scientist Lindy Weilgart said after a news conference in Halifax.

The event was hosted by opponents of oil and gas exploration in the gulf.

Weilgart, an international seismic expert, and researcher Thomas Duck, an expert in remote sensing, joined representatives of the Green Party of Canada and the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition at the media event.

Aggressive moves recently by the federal government to open up oil and gas exploration on Canadian coasts have occurred at the same time cutbacks have impaired the capacity of the scientific community to monitor sensitive ecological systems, said Duck.

“Without science to guide our decision-making processes, we cannot be assured we’re making good decisions,” he said.

The media event was held in Halifax, where Corridor Resources Inc., is headquartered. The company wants to drill an exploratory well at the Old Harry site near Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

Corridor Resources has applied to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board for environmental approval to drill the exploratory well before 2014.

Corridor Resources president Phillip Knoll was not immediately available for comment, but he said recently that the company is following strict environmental protocols in its exploratory work.

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green party, said the elimination of federal regulations for offshore development is likely to have dire consequences for the gulf.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just spent the past few months pushing through his pro-oil budget and omnibus Bill C-38, and now he thinks nothing can stop him,” said May.

There is not any offshore oil and gas exploration underway in areas that fall under the purview of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, said a spokeswoman.

However, Shell secured exploration rights for four parcels off the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia in January of this year.

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Shrimp catch rates down in Newfoundland after seismic surveys – FFAW

June 10th, 2012

FFAW objects to seismic work in shrimp grounds
June 08, 2012
The Telegram

Food Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union president Earle McCurdy  Credit: The Telegram

Food Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union president Earle McCurdy
Credit: The Telegram

The Food Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union president Earle McCurdy wants seismic prospecting company MIK’s prospecting permit revoked for interfering with the fishery.

Seismic prospectors must provide their travel schedule beforehand, and must avoid interfering with commercial fishing operations, according to Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) regulations.

McCurdy states the company conducted seismic surveys on fishing grounds in violation of the schedule they were supposed to follow.

“We’ve had enough of it,” McCurdy said. “This is the second year in a row that seismic companies have interfered with our fishery.”.

FFAW has received complaints from shrimp boat captains that catch rates have dropped following seismic activity in the area.

Last year, FFAW received the same complaints.

While fishermen are stating the seismic work is affecting catch rates, a study by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans found seismic activity didn’t impact crab or whale populations. (

McCurdy has requested a meeting with the CNLOPB, MIK, provincial department of fisheries and other groups to discuss the matter.

The CNLOPB issued a statement saying it is following up in response to a report of possible seismic survey interference with fishing activity.The CNLOPB will attend a meeting of stakeholders next week as part of this follow-up.

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Coalition Applauds NL Offshore Inquiry Recommendations

November 19th, 2010

Save Our Seas and Shores
November 19, 2010

Nova Scotia – Save our Seas and Shores, a coalition of fishermen, environmental groups and First Nations, is urging provincial and federal governments to implement the recommendations put forth by Commissioner Robert Wells in his report on safety in the offshore oil industry.

“Commissioner Wells has recommended that responsibility for safety for workers be taken from the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board and be given to an independent and powerful agency. We couldn’t agree more,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Canada. “For over a decade now, our coalition has said that Canada’s offshore petroleum boards are in a conflict of interest as both promotors of oil development and protectors of workers and the environment,” she said.

“These unelected Boards don’t have the expertise or scientific qualifications to make responsible decisions to protect habitat, ecosystems or fish stocks from the impacts of oil and gas.” says Dr. Irene Novaczek, a UPEI marine scientist. “The time is long overdue for real science-based policy development and a legitimate strategic assessment on our energy future,” she said.

“Most recently, the Canada-Newfoundland Board allowed seismic testing to proceed during the migration of endangered blue whale and cod, in spite of being warned by seismic experts that such actions would impede the recovery of these species in peril,” said Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre. “I can cite other examples of  decisions made by these boards that put the interests of the oil industry ahead of protecting the environment, placing our ecosystems in danger. This cannot continue,” he said.

“Under Canada’s current offshore regulatory structure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, there will be five unelected provincial boards in conflicts of interest as both promoter of oil and protector of nature. Each board will be authorizing seismic, exploratory and exploitive drilling, in isolation of each other, in one semi-enclosed body of water. This is mismanagement at its worst and a disaster waiting to happen,” says Mary Gorman of Save our Seas and Shores Coalition.     

After the Gulf of Mexico spill in the US, President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar separated the promotion of offshore oil and gas development from the protection of worker safety and the environment. The Governments of the UK and Norway have enacted similar measures.

The coalition is calling for a moratorium on oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence because of the vulnerability of the region which is home to over 2000 marine species with sensitive life stages of marine organisms that are present year around.

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