Oil companies want to explore and drill for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The first drill is proposed for the “Old Harry” prospect, located only 70 km from the Magdalene Islands, Quebec, 80 km from western Newfoundland and 120 km from Cape Breton Is., Nova Scotia. If we don’t stop this, the fishing and tourism economies of 5 provinces and First Nations territories will be at risk from oil spills. The Canadian government is pushing for energy development and gives full control of offshore drilling activities to unelected Petroleum Boards which are tipped in favour of the oil industry.
Why We’re Saying No to Oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
1. The Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem is too precious to risk.
The Gulf has been described as the most productive marine ecosystem in Canada, containing the largest concentration of krill in the northwest Atlantic. Krill is a foundation species in the marine food chain of the Gulf, which is home to over 2,000 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year round. The Gulf of St. Lawrence gives the largest lobster production in the world. Over one million tons of mature marine fish funnel through the Gulf each spring and fall. Endangered blue whale, right whale, piping plover, leatherback turtle, and harlequin duck depend on a healthy Gulf.
2. ‘Co-existence’ between oil exploration and development and a bio-diverse Gulf ecosystem is not possible.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists say this is a biologically diverse area where sensitive life stages of marine organisms are present year round. We say there is no “right time” for seismic surveying and other oil related activity.
3. Too little is known about the Gulf’s marine ecosystem to safely proceed with exploration or drilling.
Experts admit that the Gulf ecosystem is “not well understood”. And yet, the oil companies say they will mitigate risks. But you can’t mitigate the unknown. According to DFO scientists, there are knowledge gaps about early life stages and habitat requirements of all life stages. The precautionary principle, which is within Canada’s Oceans Act, states that where there is scientific uncertainty and the threat of harm, a precautionary approach must be applied. In 2000 – 2001, two Canadian bodies – the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans – both recommended a moratorium, recognizing the precautionary principle.
4. The Gulf ecosystem is already fragile and experiences extreme physical conditions.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a semi-enclosed sea, with currents that flow counter clockwise within the Gulf for up to 11 months before exiting into the Atlantic. The DFO Habitat Status Report (2001) states: “Any impacts from oil and gas exploration activities will be amplified due to the small, shallow, enclosed nature of the environment and the high biomass and diversity year-round.” Spill simulations show that an oil spill could drift to the shores of half of the provinces of Canada. The Gulf already faces environmental threats of land-based sources of pollution such as heavy metals and pesticides; shipping discharges; coastal development; and climate and air quality issues. Allowing the oil and gas industry into the Gulf would add thousands of barrels of drill cuttings, waste-water, and continuous small spills.
5. Oil development threatens existing jobs.
Multi-billion dollar renewable, sustainable fishing and tourism industries rely on a healthy Gulf for jobs in 5 provinces; Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick; and First Nations territories. In the Gulf, we are all neighbours.
6. You can’t eliminate or predict oil spills. Atlantic Canada is not prepared.
Time and again, offshore oil industry giants have proven they cannot prevent, stop, or clean up spills before damage occurs that lasts for decades. Twenty-four years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, herring stocks in Alaska’s Cordova Bay have not fully recovered. As research continues in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are finding that impacts on animals who live on the sea bed has extended far beyond the localized area of the drill site. Their most recent work shows the impact zone to be up to 100 sq kilometres. If a spill happens in Canada, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum board lacks the capacity to respond.
7. We need to wean ourselves off fossil fuel.
In order to prevent the Gulf continuing on the path to becoming a dead zone, as well as to prevent uncontrolled climate change, we must leave at least 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and convert to non-polluting renewable energy technologies as quickly as possible. Instead of drilling in the Gulf, Atlantic Canada, with its ample wind and solar potential, could become a model of renewable energy for the rest of Canada.
What We Want
We are calling for an immediate moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling for the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Canadian government, First Nations and the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland Labrador must work together to the protect critical marine environments, fisheries and wildlife. The economies and ways of life of the communities around the Gulf rely on a healthy Gulf to thrive.
Who supports a moratorium?
Within a few weeks of launching our campaign for a moratorium, over 40 groups signed on to our letter demanding action. We remain grateful to those early supporters! Now there are thousands more and we urge you to join us!
What You Can Do
We’ve got some ideas! Check out Taking Action
Looking for More Information?
Check out Learn More