Category Archives: Media

Media coverage of issues surrounding oil/gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and press releases from Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.

Innu, Maliseet and Mi’Gmaq Nations Unite to save the Gulf of St. Lawrence

July 18th, 2014

HALIFAX, July 16, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ – Chiefs from the three Aboriginal peoples that have always occupied the waters and shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence called today for a moratorium on oil and gas development they say could endanger the region and infringe on their rights.

Chiefs representing the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations, whose communities straddle the borders of Québec,New Brunswick and Nova Scotia gathered in Halifax to call on the federal and provincial governments to conduct an integrated environmental assessment for the Gulf as a whole before considering any exploration.

“All of us, Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq, depend on the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for our livelihoods,” said Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit in Québec.

As the Chiefs spoke in Halifax, where they were meeting for the Assembly of First Nations annual general assembly, boats belonging to the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gewa’gi (Gaspé) were set to arrive at the proposed drill site at Old Harry and leave a buoy to mark their presence.

“Our intention is to show that together, we own and occupy the Gulf,” said Chief Claude Jeannotte of the Mi’gmaq community of Gespeg in Québec.

Currently, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) is conducting the environmental assessment of an exploration well proposed at Old Harry, a location only 80 km from Québec’s Magdalen Islands. The federal government will soon allow oil and gas activities in the western part of the Gulf to be decided by a joint body to be formed with Québec that will have jurisdiction over waters from Anticosti Island to the Lower North Shore, including a few kilometers from the Island of Newfoundland. The southeastern Gulf is the responsibility of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

A report published by Québec in 2013 concluded that a catastrophe on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is “plausible” if oil and gas exploration or development proceeds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“The Gulf is a unique and fragile ecosystem,” said Chief Candice Paul of the Maliseet community of St. Mary’s inNew Brunswick. “The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq peoples have depended on the Gulf since time immemorial and we will not stand for its destruction.”


SOURCE Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq nations

 For further information:

click here


Troy Jerome
Cell. (506) 759-2000

Serge Ashini Goupil
Cell. (418) 609-0491

Map of the Old Harry drilling project:


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Blue Whale Campaign launches in Atlantic Canada

July 14th, 2014

The newly minted Blue Whale Campaign is rushing to the aid of this gentle giant in our Gulf.

Although blue whales made the endangered species list in 2005, their critical habitat has yet to be formally identified, opening its vital feeding and breeding grounds to offshore fossil fuel development.

The Old Harry oil prospect, 80km off Newfoundland’s west coast and 460 metres underwater, is expected to be drilled in 2015 by the Halifax based Corridor Resources. This oil prospect happens to be located in the Laurentian Channel, which houses the North Atlantic’s largest known concentration of krill, the blue whale’s nearly exclusive source of food.

“In my opinion, the Gulf contains critical habitat for the endangered blue whale even though it has not yet been identified,” said Mary Gorman with the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, a parent organization of the Blue Whale Campaign.

If successful in its search for fossil fuels, Corridor Resources will open the door to other offshore projects in the region. Besides potential oil spills, these projects threaten the blue whale with extensive seismic testing, collisions with oil tankers and destruction of food stocks.

Organizers Zack Metcalfe and Colin Jeffrey are spearheading the Blue Whale Campaign, bringing public awareness to the dangers posed by fossil fuel development in the Gulf.

“With a population so small, the slightest misstep at Old Harry could spell the end of the blue whale,” said Metcalfe, a journalist volunteering full time with the Sierra Club Atlantic. The ultimate goal of this campaign is to establish a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf.

“The more you know about our incredible Gulf of St Lawrence, the harder you will work to protect it,” said Jeffrey, a graduate of Dalhousie University’s Master of Resource and Environmental Management program. He’s spend the last two years working in defence of the Gulf, volunteering with the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.

In order to promote their message, organizers of the Blue Whale Campaign are seeking your help. The campaign now has a webpage on which concerned members of the public can donate to support the cause. You can become a “Krill Donor” with as little as $10, or a “Cod Donor” for $20 and work your way up the food chain. The campaign’s ultimate goal is $10,000 in donations by August 20. All donations are tax deductible.

To learn more about the blue whale campaign or to donate, please visit



For more information:

Zack Metcalfe

Campaign Organizer




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Gulf drilling: flirting with disaster

June 12th, 2014

Opinion – The Chronicle Herald, June 10, 2014

by Colin Jeffrey

In the wake of World Oceans Day, marked with actions and celebrations by the United Nations and community groups around the world, Atlantic Canadians should pause and consider how we are treating the ocean in our own backyard.

Of special concern is the recent push to develop oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Not content with exploiting the 85 per cent of Canada’s eastern waters that lie outside of the Gulf, the oil and gas industry has persuaded provincial governments to open up parts of the gulf for exploration and development.

However, Canadians have more to lose from petroleum development in the gulf than outside it. With its warm, shallow waters, this inland sea acts as a vital feeding and spawning ground for most of our commercially valuable marine species and contains the largest concentration of krill in the North Atlantic.

In 1973, an interdisciplinary panel report led by Dr. Loutfi of McGill University described the gulf as “biologically, the most productive Canadian marine region” and concluded that offshore development posed too great a risk to an ecosystem of such biological diversity.

Since then, the health of our gulf has deteriorated, with overfishing, land-based pollution and climate-change-driven impacts all playing a role in its decline. Fish stocks that once created thousands of jobs in the region are now managed with the utmost care in the hopes that they will one day increase. Given the current fragile state of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, do we really want to add the known impacts of offshore drilling to the mix?

Most worrying of all is the lack of environmental protection proposed by those overseeing oil and gas development in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Currently, planned development is concentrated along Newfoundland’s west coast. Like many parts of the gulf, this area has an unusual abundance of fish and provides critical feeding, spawning and wintering habitat for several groundfish and pelagic fish species, as well as threatened whale species.

For this and other reasons, it has been designated an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. One would think that such high biodiversity would persuade the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) to at least place areas of vital marine habitat off limits to petroleum development, but this has not happened.

In May, the CNLOPB released an update of its Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for Newfoundland’s western offshore, a document that is supposed to provide strategic planning for future offshore development and ensure environmental protection on a regional scale.

This, it does not do. Using the flimsy excuse that specific protection measures cannot be implemented before actual projects have been proposed, the CNLOPB makes no effort to place critical marine habitat off-limits to oil and gas exploration and development.

The SEA Update area also includes the “Old Harry” prospect, which is expected to be approved for exploratory drilling this summer. Proceeding with drilling here is as likely as anywhere in the gulf to cause real harm. It’s located in water six times deeper than the Hibernia site and surrounded by biologically significant areas.

As Atlantic Canadians, we have relatively little to gain and everything to lose from allowing oil and gas development to proceed in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The economic benefits of these industries are often touted, but increased energy efficiency and renewable energy production offer more substantial economic benefits.

According to a comprehensive study titled Putting Renewables and Energy Efficiency to Work, published in the journal Energy Policy in 2010, “all renewable energy sources generate more jobs than the fossil fuel sector per unit of energy delivered.”

Further fossil fuel production will also increase the severity of climate change, creating substantial negative impacts on our economies and our lives in the coming decades.

When you add in anticipated negative impacts to our Eastern Canadian fisheries, which contribute $3 billion a year to Atlantic economies, one really has to question if offshore drilling in the gulf is our best option for energy development in Atlantic Canada.

Colin Jeffrey is a member of Save Our Seas and Shores — P.E.I. chapter.

Go here to read the piece on the Herald’s website.

Colin’s Op Ed also appeared in The Guardian on June 10th, under the heading:

Oceans Day reminds us to protect the Gulf

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St. Lawrence Coalition Releases Gulf 101 Report

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

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

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

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

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


The Telegram:

Nova Scotia

Chronicle Herald:

CBC Nova Scotia:

Prince Edward Island:

The Guardian:


CBC News Montreal (online): (June 9)

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




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Not in our Gulf

May 28th, 2014

The New Glasgow News

John Brannen

Published May 27, 2014

Board gives petroleum exploration, drilling in Gulf of St. Lawrence a go while environmentalists demand moratorium

A recent report giving the green light to petroleum exploration and drilling activities off the western coast of Newfoundland and Labrador has several environmental groups up in arms.

Mary Gorman of Merigomish took part in a peaceful march in Quebec hosted by St. Lawrence Coalition opposing oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Gorman said more than 200 native and non-native people attended the event. Jérôme Spaggiari photo

And they wanted the four Atlantic premiers to put it on the agenda as they met yesterday to discuss a variety of issues affecting the region.

The coalition of fishing, environmental, tourism, and indigenous groups want the area’s provincial heads of government to work together to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

713-page report released last month from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board noted that while the western region was ecologically significance, petroleum activities could be undertaken.

That report has Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition confused and dismayed.

“The report goes on to say how sensitive the environment is and then concludes that drilling can go ahead,” she said. “It’s as if all the pages preceding the conclusion came from a different report.”

video simulation from the David Suzuki Foundation that shows what could take place if an oil spill were to take place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence concludes that all provinces around the gulf would be affected.

“Newfoundland’s oil industry will have everything to gain from opening up the Gulf to oil – and other industries and provinces have everything to lose,” Gorman said. “This is a precious, shared ecosystem. The Premiers need to be talking about working together to protect it.”

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is responsible, on behalf of the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, for petroleum resource management in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area.

The board’s role is to facilitate the exploration for and development of the hydrocarbon resources in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area while keeping worker safety, environmental protection, effective management of land tenure and maximum hydrocarbon recovery and value.

Gorman believes that in the Gulf of St. Lawrence mitigation for environmental damage, or worse – and oil spill, isn’t simply a question of money.

“Who is going to be held responsible when there’s a spill and the inshore and mid shore fishery has been wiped out,” she said. “What will tell our children and grandchildren when the environment is utterly beyond repair?”

She said a moratorium on petroleum exploration and drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is the way to proceed since the Gulf is already suffering environmentally.

“The science is clear that the Gulf is on the knife’s edge in terms of industrial development,” said Dr. Irene Novaczek, science advisor to the SOSS‐PEI Chapter. “ We know our Premier is concerned and we hope he will bring these concerns to the table at these meetings.”

“We have been calling for a stop to oil and gas development in the Gulf for over a decade,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, “Dangerous oil development could go ahead by the end of this year. It’s about time it made it on the agenda when our Premiers talk.”

A release from the Premier McNeil’s office late yesterday afternoon noted that the Atlantic premiers signed a memorandum of understanding that will establish common training, certifications and standards to help apprentices complete training and work within the region more easily.

While the Gulf of St. Lawrence wasn’t officially on the agenda, the SOSS coalition hoped it was brought up informally at meetings with the Atlantic premiers yesterday.

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

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May 26th, 2014

Halifax, NS – A coalition of fishing, environmental, tourism, and indigenous groups is looking for the Atlantic Premiers to work together to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence at their meeting this week.  Recent peer reviewed science has shown oil spilled in Gulf of St. Lawrence could affect other provinces around the Gulf.


“Newfoundland’s oil industry will have everything to gain from opening up the Gulf to oil – and other industries and provinces have everything to lose,” according to Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “This is a precious, shared ecosystem. The Premiers need to be talking about working together to protect it.”


Discussing the Gulf should also be top of mind for the Premiers in light of recent environmental assessment by Newfoundland’s offshore board giving a green light to oil and gas development off Newfoundland’s West Coast.


The Coalition points to concerns raised by Gulf scientists stating that any oil spilled from Old Harry will land on PEI, NS as well as NL’s western coast (


“The science is clear that the Gulf is on the knife’s edge in terms of industrial development,” according to Dr. Irene Novaczek, Science Advisor to the SOSS-PEI Chapter. “ We know our Premier is concerned and we hope he will bring these concerns to the table at these meetings.”


“We have been calling for a stop to oil and gas development in the Gulf for over a decade,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, “Dangerous oil development could go ahead by the end of this year. It’s about time it made it on the agenda when our Premiers talk.”




Background: Oil spill modeling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence:


For more information, contact:


Mary Gorman

902-926-2128 (h) / 902-759-5963 (mobile) /


Dr. Irene Novaczek

902-964-2781 /


Gretchen Fitzgerald

902-444-3113 (office) / 902-444-7096 (mobile) /

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Oceanography study start to examining risks of Old Harry development

May 26th, 2014

The Western Star – Gary Kean

A team of environmental researchers has begun trying to fill in some of the knowledge gaps in exploring for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the preliminary results give some idea of how vulnerable western Newfoundland’s coastline might be to a spill.

The team is made up of three researchers from the University of Quebec at Rimouski’s ocean sciences institute and Angela Carter of the University of Waterloo.

Carter is a former faculty member of the environmental studies program at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook and the study was headed up by Daniel Bourgault, who taught in the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography at Memorial University’s main campus in St. John’s from 2003 to 2009.

Their study focused on Old Harry, a site in the southeastern section of the Gulf of St. Lawrence that has been targeted for development by the oil and gas industry.

The study involved a computer simulation of where water from Old Harry tends to flow and could be a preliminary indication of where contaminants would also drift off to if there was ever an accidental spill at the Old Harry site.

Using surface water current data provided by Environment Canada, the digital models show that the surface water from Old Harry primarily flows in two directions. It will likely flow up the coast of western Newfoundland or out towards the Atlantic Ocean via the Cabot Strait.

The study includes animations of the expected flow for contaminant being released for different numbers of days, from a one-day release to a 100-day release.

“If there was some oil and that oil persisted for many days or weeks, it’s very likely it would hit the west coast of Newfoundland,” Bourgault said in a phone interview to discuss the report.

The research does not account for other important variables, including factors such as the different consistency of contaminated water, salinity, water temperature or the effects of sub-sea currents. Bourgault hopes to collect information regarding those other details and further develop the model they have so far.

Some of that additional work is already in the making.

Last fall, Bourgault and his team collaborated with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Quebec to deploy a mooring at the Old Harry site. That line is anchored to the bottom of the sea and contains a series of instruments spread throughout the water column to collect other variables relevant to further developing the study.

“Those instruments will be recovered next fall and then we’ll start looking at the data,” said Bourgault.

While the amount of information collected so far is limiting, Bourgault is hoping to secure funding for a ship to eventually go to the Old Harry site and conduct more tests in the field. That would involve deploying a series of surface drifters equipped with global positioning systems so they can be tracked over a period of time.

With just a theory based on physical oceanography so far, Bourgault is looking to enlist experts in biology and chemistry to help evolve a better idea of what the risk is to the Gulf of St. Lawrence should there ever be contamination from a developed Old Harry site.

“We need to bring together a big group of people, which we’ve started to do,” he said. “It will take quite a long time to make a multidisciplinary study and to synthesize all those results.”

With the Gulf of St Lawrence under immediate pressure for oil and gas exploration, particularly at the Old Harry prospect, Bourgault and his team feels the region’s complex environment has not yet been studied enough. The abstract statement from the report itself says there is a lack of independent oceanographic research and having that information could help the debate about the development between the oil and gas industry, government and environmental groups.

“Given the criticisms of existing industry, government and non-governmental studies on the impact of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St Lawrence, as well as the preliminary nature of current scientific studies, this study indicates that there is a clear need for comprehensive, independent, field-based scientific research on this project,” concluded the report.

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Celebrate International Oceans Day with a Picnic at the Shore, Cavendish, PEI

May 19th, 2014

In recognition of International Oceans Day, Save Our Seas and Shores PEI (SOSS PEI) is inviting everyone to a beach walk and potluck Picnic at the Shore to be held on Sunday, June 8 in the PEI National Park at Cavendish.  Park and meet at the beach access point across from Bonnie Acres Drive. The beach walk will begin at 10 a.m.and the picnic will follow at 12 noon.  Please bring a contribution of food to share, and your own dishes, cutlery and chairs or blanket.


“We want to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” said Ellie Reddin, chair of SOSS PEI.  “The Gulf is our part of the global ocean, home to approximately 6,000 marine species, and it is up to us to appreciate and protect it.  As we look out at the Gulf from the North Shore, or travel over it in a boat, the Gulf seems vast and powerful; it may be difficult to understand that it is indeed a fragile ecosystem, vulnerable to the effects of pollution and climate change. But if we look at a map, we can see how small it is compared to Hudson’s Bay or the Gulf of Mexico and, in that sense, more susceptible to environmental damage.”


SOSS scientific advisor Irene Novaczek will lead a beach walk to  point out some of the beneficial plant life found in nearshore waters.  “Most people cannot love what they do not know, and will not stand up to protect what they do not love.  It is time for all Islanders” says Dr Novaczek “- cradled on the waves as we are – to learn to love and respect the sea, because the sea is critical to our survival, and our economic activities are causing it serious damage.   Let’s start by learning to recognize, name and value the beautiful marine plants that nature provides as food and medicine, supplements to soil and gardens, and habitat for the myriad creatures that live in inshore waters.”


For further information, contact or


– 30 –

Contacts:  Ellie Reddin, 566-3600,

Irene Novaczek, 964-2781,

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Lessons from the whales

May 15th, 2014

Published in The Western Star, May 14, 2014

Dear Editor: Western Newfoundland has been in the news a lot in the last few weeks with stories about the nine blue whales that died in the ice close to Port aux Basques.

Two came ashore at Trout River and Rocky Harbour and others were last seen adrift north of Sally’s Cove.

These dead whales clearly demonstrate to me two very important facts:

1. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a species-rich, semi-enclosed sea. Everyone was surprised when several dozen white-beaked dolphins, a sperm whale and nine blue whales were killed along the southwest coast by the ice this winter. The monumental size of the deaths hinted at an unseen richness.

But these are just a tiny fraction of the living whales, seals, birds, fish and other hidden creatures that make the Gulf of St. Lawrence their home (see the May issue of National Geographic for an indication of international interest in the diversity of the Gulf).

The Gulf is extremely important to marine life, to the fishery and to tourism and it is very different from Hibernia and other open-ocean oil fields. If an oil spill occurred in the Gulf, some theories indicate that floating crude would circulate around the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, Québec, N.B., P.E.I. and N.S., smothering instead of dispersing.

2. What happens in the Gulf stays in the Gulf. It is believed the blue whales died somewhere off Cape Anguille, in the vicinity of the Old Harry geological structure. This is an area that is of great interest to exploration companies for its oil and gas potential.

The carcasses were apparently captured by the current and floated northward, along the coast of the Port au Port Peninsula, past the Bay of Islands, and north to Bonne Bay where two grounded and others continued to drift in the direction of the Strait of Belle Isle.

This shows me what would likely happen if there were to be an oil spill in the Old Harry area.

I suspect the oil would be carried by the northward current, just like the dead whales, coating the west coast in crude — including the beaches of this province’s tourism icon, Gros Morne National Park. (Watch the fascinating animation of oil spill scenarios in the Gulf at

Governments are currently considering oil exploration throughout the Gulf. Scientists believe our overuse of hydrocarbon fuels has already tipped this planet into dangerous climatic change.

Oil exploration and exploitation are accompanied by spills and leaks.

Seismic mapping is suspected of damaging marine organisms.

Shipping and pipeline construction bring their own hazards. There are other sources of oil, and other sources of energy.

Is it really necessary to sacrifice the Gulf as well?

The Gulf of St. Lawrence oil industry began when the Basques arrived at Red Bay to harvest whale oil in the 1500s.

This spring’s drifting blue whales have shown me that it should end now with a ban on hydrocarbon extraction in the precious and vulnerable ecosystem of the Gulf.

Michael Burzynski, Rocky Harbour

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Farley Mowat’s final fight goes on without him

May 14th, 2014

iPolitics featured a personal and well-researched piece on the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the wake of Farley Mowat’s passing and what is means for our battle. We miss you, Farley!


By  | May 10, 2014 9:30 am

In losing her friend Farley Mowat this week, Mary Gorman may have also lost the biggest fight of her life.

In the summer of 2011, the Cape Breton environmental activist introduced Mowat to one of his final acts as a green crusader – helping in the campaign to stop oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

For the past decade, petroleum firms and their regulators have been dipping their toes into the Gulf, a body of water with a cyclical current that has sustained abundant fisheries for five provinces, not to mention a robust tourism industry from Gros Morne and Cape Breton national parks to the Gaspe and the Baie des Chaleurs.

Many attempts have been abandoned. But like the tides themselves, they keep coming back. On Monday, a monumental report that is meant to prepare the waters for the next incursion was released in Newfoundland — just two days before Mowat died.

“It’s just the timing,” said Gorman, audibly emotional during a telephone interview on Thursday morning. “I hope that Farley didn’t know about their decision…I know he would have been utterly devastated,” she said.

Mowat, renowned for his writings as a naturalist and as one of the environmentalist movement’s earliest iconoclasts, had spent summers in Cape Breton since at least the 1970s, according to Gorman. He was a natural fit for Gorman’s Save our Seas and Shores campaign, which had already earned the support of actors Jason Priestly and Ethan Hawke, also property owners on the Gulf’s Nova Scotia coastline.

“He was only too willing to help because of his profound passion,” she said. “Farley was a tireless defender to the very end of his life and he recognized that our Gulf is one of the most precious ecosystems of this earth.”

But Mowat is now gone. In his wake the Western Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore AreaStrategic Environmental Assessment Update, a 713-page overview of the Gulf’s social and environmental importance, sets the stage for the campaign’s next battle.

The pressure is coming from Newfoundland because of an oil prospect called Old Harry off the westernmost tip of the island. The license for Old Harry was awarded to Corridor Resources Inc., which has onshore explorations leases along the St. Lawrence River and Anticosti Island from the Quebec government, in 2008.

It will be years before a drill hits the ocean floor because Corridor is still in the midst of completing its environmental assessment for Old Harry. After the assessment, it has to receive an approval to drill a well and an operations authorization, which require detailed safety, contingency and financial plans.

But in the meantime, the Strategic Environmental Assessment gives Old Harry and nine other exploration blocks off the western Newfoundland coast a yellow light to move ahead, according to Sean Kelly, spokesperson for the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the regulator that is overseeing the exploration in Newfoundland’s waters.

The common refrain among federal leaders when anxiety over oil exploration in the Gulf was brought to their attention in recent years was to wait and see what the strategic environmental assessment said. It was described to media as the process that would provide the wisdom needed to proceed.

The assessment is above all else an exhaustive list of the Gulf’s wildlife, from zooplankton to blue whales to coastal birds. There are over 40 maps of different creatures’ habitats, not including the dozens that show where specific fisheries take place.

Then there’s an extensive look at all the human values, from the towns and villages along the coasts to the national parks already protected by Ottawa, the unexploded ordinance sites and the shipping lanes.

The Gulf’s wind speeds, currents and ice formations get an examination too, right down to a map of iceberg sightings, including growlers and bergy bits.

This existing reality is juxtaposed against the offshore petroleum industry’s own footprint. Of these, the most contentious in Gorman’s view is an oil spill.

“Despite oil and gas activity technological advances, as well as enhancements in the associated safety, environmental protection and regulatory practices that have been achieved, the possibility (and prevention) of large spills remains an ongoing concern and key priority for both offshore oil and gas operators, spill responders, regulators and the public,” says the assessment.

A well blowout or other type of spill would be most dangerous – and have the greatest likelihood of impacting a large swath of the Gulf – during winter months when layers of ice cover its waters.

“While conventional methods to clean up oil (e.g. skimmers and containment booms) may be hindered by the presence of ice, oil spills are also often contained by ice…except in conditions of high currents,” it says.

With regards to the threat oil and gas exploration will present to specific ecological or human values, the assessment leaves that up to the regulatory processes for specific projects, like the one Old Harry is now undergoing.

As for many of the more overarching problems – like the need to perform a gap analysis of the Gulf’s oil spill response infrastructure – the assessment leaves that for another day.

It’s a disappointing outcome for Gorman, who feels not only that oil and gas exploration should be stopped but that the bodies that are meant to make that determination don’t go far enough to protect the environment when they say yes.

Aside from Old Harry and the Newfoundland licenses, there are more exploration projects in the Gulf coming in the medium to long term.

Quebec is in the midst of negotiating its own offshore petroleum board with Ottawa. Federal ministers have made repeated assurances to the media that the talks are progressing.

With Mowat gone, Gorman’s campaigning just became a lot lonelier.

“It’s just a huge loss,” she said.

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