SOSS PEI and Sierra Club Atlantic member Colin Jeffery (left) brought attention the perils of oil and gas exploration close to our shores in Prince Edward Island and provided musical entertainment, along with talented fellow musicians Mary MacGillivray and Blaine Hrabi. (photo: courtesy of PEI Preserve Co.)
On Saturday, November 1st, the Prince Edward Island Preserve Co. in New Glasgow, PEI hosted a fundraising dinner in support of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter’s Blue Whale Campaign to protect the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Save Our Seas and Shores PEI and Sierra Club member, Colin Jeffery, spoke to those in attendance, highlighting and expanding upon some of the more notable threats that have already begun to impact the health of the Gulf, such as: climate change, excess nutrients and invasive species. Jeffery then focused his discourse on the perils of oil and gas explorations that further threaten the hypersensitive and already fragile ecosystem within Gulf waters.
The Blue Whale Dinner was a successful fundraising event, but equally, and perhaps more so, it raised public awareness on the issues that directly impact the overall health and sustainability of life in the five provinces that border the Gulf, as well as the Gulf’s role as an integral part of a greater ecosystem far beyond our shores. As past-chair of the Save Our Seas and Shores PEI, Ellie Reddin stated, “It was a lovely evening…[and] it would make a fine annual event!”.
Read a more in depth account of the Blue Whale Dinner on the PEI Preserve company Blog post here.
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: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2014-06-09/article-3755759/Group-calls-for-oil-and-gas-moratorium-in-the-Gulf-of-St.-Lawrence/1
Chronicle Herald: http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1206569-hunt-for-oil-gas-in-gulf-of-st-lawrence-questioned
CBC Nova Scotia: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/groups-call-for-gulf-of-st-lawrence-oil-and-gas-moratorium-1..2669369
Prince Edward Island:
The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-06-09/article-3756428/Group-calls-for-moratorium-on-drilling-in-Gulf-of-St.-Lawrence/1
CBC News Montreal (online): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/moratorium-on-gulf-of-st-lawrence-oil-exploration-sought-1.2669637 (June 9)
Go hear to read the Press Release on the report from the David Suzuki Foundation:
Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee
February 7, 2014
Fishery Committee Concerned about Collapse of the Scallop Fishery and Threats to the Marine Ecosystem in Port au Port Bay
The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is intending to act on their concerns about the collapse of the Scallop Fishery and threats to the local Marine Ecosystem,
The Committee which met Monday evening, February 3, 2014 in Port au Port East has created subcommittees and an action plan to deal with their concerns.
Scallop fishermen in the Port au Port Bay Region reported that they have never experienced such a widespread collapse of the scallop fishery in the local bay. Laboratory test results on scallops submitted to the Federal Department of Fisheries last November have been inconclusive as to the cause of the collapse. The committee was also disappointed that the scallops were not tested for petroleum contaminants. The fishermen also report that sea urchins have gone and there is a big decline in rock crab.
Local fishermen believe that environmental pollutants, possibly from oil/industrial developments in the area, may be contributing to the drastic decline in scallops. Fishery Committee member Captain Gus Hynes says that he and his crew are quite concerned that developments have been occurring around Port au Port Bay without due regard to their impact on scallops and other marine species.
Fishery Committee members believe that past government environmental assessments done under the jurisdiction of the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board are not adequately protecting fishery interests and the marine environment. The 2007 Environmental Assessment for the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program at Shoal Point makes no mention of the potential high risk and vulnerability of the site to tidal surges, coastal erosion and other impacts from extreme weather related to climate change. The risks associated with rapid rate of coastal erosion caused by extreme weather and tidal surges in the area are self evident such as the recent wash- outs of sections of the Piccadilly Main Road; Fox Island Road, and the main roadway to the Shoal Point drilling site.
Bill O’Gorman, scallop diver and Fishery Committee spokesperson, says the name of the area “Shoal” Point should have set off enough bells and red lights to warrant at least some reference in the 2007 Environmental Assessment to the risk involved with drilling at such a vulnerable site. ‘The alarming fact is that drilling was approved on an exposed shoal at the tip of a point jutting out some eight kilometres towards the centre of Port au Port Bay.” Mr. O’ Gorman believes that the environmental and health risks of oil drilling on a shoal are more serious today due to increasing extreme weather, rising ocean levels and tidal surges – all related to climate change
Boswarlos resident, Andrew Harvey, a fisherman for thirty-seven years, has been recording storms and other weather conditions in the Port au Port Bay area. He has noticed the increasing frequency of storms and the intensity of the storm surges. Andrew speculates, based on the rate of coastal erosion at Shoal Point that the latest drill site at the end of the point will be ” pretty well washed away within the next five to ten years”
Other problems at Shoal Point that concerns the Fishery Committee are pollution issues and lack of remediation and environmental restoration at abandoned drilling sites at Shoal Point. “There was no mention in the 2007 Environmental Assessment of past oil drilling sites that were once on land and are now off shore with oil from derelict pipes polluting the coastal environment.” Many area residents and tourists such as Bill Duffenais and Karen Smith, who have a cabin and shed threatened by coastal erosion at Shoal Point, have reported the presence of drilling pipes jutting vertically out of the water off Shoal Point. Troy Duffy, local Environmental Protection Officer and members of the Fishery Committee have verified and documented the existence of these pipes, oil slicks and smell of petroleum in the area. Larry Hicks, a Provincial Department of Resources geologist, has indicated that there may be as many as fifteen abandoned drilling sites in the Shoal Point area which are in various states of deterioration.
There were also no public consultation meetings or forums conducted as part of the original 2007 Environmental Assessment Process which ended with the approval of the last drilling project at Shoal Pont. The Fishery Committee believes that this environmental process facilitated by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (C -NLOPB0) was invalid, undemocratic and failed the residents of the region. The C-NLOPB were in conflict of interest by being responsible for facilitating oil and gas development and also being responsible for worker safety and environmental protection. The Fishery Committee supports Judge Robert Wells main recommendation in his Report on Offshore Safety that the Federal and Provincial Governments should create a Safety and Environmental Protection Agency separate from the C-NLOPB.
Related to the 2007 Assessment was the 2010 request from Shoal Pont Energy to amend the 2007 Environmental Assessment to allow Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking). Fracking possibly would have been approved at this site if it were not for the intervention of the regional Fracking Awareness Groups and others.
With reference to the Provincial Government’s Turn Back The Tide Climate Change Initiative the Fishery Committee is calling upon the Provincial Government to do a study and assessment of climate change impacts on Shoal Point and other sensitive areas such as the coastal road near Fox Island River.
The Fishery Committee is requesting that the Provincial and Federal Governments should say no to Hydraulic Fracturing at Shoal Point due to well documented, unacceptable risks. As an alternative they should do what they are promoting in the provincial government’s Turn Back The Tide Advertising Campaign – act on climate change by developing new and clean renewable energy – wind, tidal, thermal and solar.
The objectives of the Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee are:
1. Determine why the scallops are dying in Port au Port Bay.
2. Study and monitor the marine ecology of Port au Port Bay
3. Promote a healthy marine ecosystem
4. Preserve the species that are dying off
5. Preserve the fishery as a way of life.
Man-made noise in the oceans may have significant damaging effects on shellfish populations, according to a new international study.
This University of St. Andrews in Scotland press release below describes the study:
Credit: University of St. Andrews
A team of researchers from the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, the University of La Laguna, Canary Islands and the University of Auckland, New Zealand, found that marine invertebrates, such as shellfish, suffered significant body malformations after being exposed to noise.
The team conducted a sound playback experiment on New Zealand scallop larvae, comparing their development to a control group kept in quiet conditions. The results show that the exposed scallops suffered significant development delays, with 46% of them developing body abnormalities, while no malformations were found in the controlled larvae.
The strong impacts observed in the experiment suggest that abnormalities and growth delays could also occur at lower noise levels in the wild, suggesting routine underwater sounds from oil exploration and construction could affect the survival of wild scallops.
Team leader, Dr Aguilar de Soto, from the University of St Andrews and the University of La Laguna said:
Nobody knew that noise exposure could affect the growth of animals so dramatically so it was a real surprise to discover malformations in these microscopic larvae. What is actually going wrong inside the cells is still a mystery that we need to investigate. Shellfish larvae go through radical body changes as they grow and noise seems to disrupt this natural process.
Fishermen worldwide complain about reductions in captures follow seismic surveys used for oil explorations. Our results suggest that noise could be one factor explaining delayed effects on stocks?
MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland) senior research fellow Dr Mark Johnson of St Andrews said:
Between shipping, construction and oil explorations, we are making more and more noise in the oceans. There is already concern about the possible effects of this on whales and dolphins. Our results show that even small animals could be affected by noise. It is important to find out what noise levels are safe for shellfish to help reduce our impact on these key links in the food chain?
The full report is published in the Nature Publishing Group journal, Scientific Reports.
A Review of Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime. Setting the Course for the Future. Published by Tanker Safety Panel Secretariat, Ottawa. 2013
This 32 page report presents the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a unique marine ecosystem that features complex oceanographic processes and also maintains a high biological diversity of marine life. The information provided covers physical systems such as the properties of water, physical oceanography and geological components. The biological aspects include descriptions of macrophytic, planktonic and benthic communities, reptiles, fish, marine birds and mammals. There is also a discussion on the human components such as settlement, industrial activity and governance. By providing relevant information in this format the report highlights the challenge of managing multiple human activities within the context of a dynamic, diverse and unique marine ecosystem. It was produced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2005.
Gulf of St. Lawrence A Unique Ecosystem DFO
Over the past number of months, all municipalities in Prince Edward Island were provided information by PEI SOSS in the form of a Resolution on Oil and Gas Exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence . The proposed resolution provided two options for municipalities: Moratorium until Review/Public Consultation Occurs and Moratorium Leading to Ban.
Since then, the following municipalities have informed us that they have discussed and approved a resolution with one or both of the two options presented, and have sent a letter to the Premier to indicate their respective councils’ positions. Those municipal councils who have passed the resolution are as follows:
North Rustico (permanent ban)
Murray River (both options)
Bonshaw Community Council will present an updated Resolution to the Federation of PEI Municipalities at their AGM on April 28th. Many thanks to all who have taken initiative in their respective areas to further this cause & protect of the Gulf!
Are blasting airguns jeopardizing Atlantic Ocean’s ecosystem?
by Robert Devet Halifax Media Co-op
November 21, 2013
K’JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas production is on the upswing. Natural gas is flowing from the Deep Panuke natural gas field on the Scotian Shelf.
And now there are two new kids on the block. This time it’s oil they are after.
Shell Canada spent the summer mapping the geology of a large area in the Shelburne Basin about 300 kilometers south east of Halifax. Next summer BP Exploration (Canada) will follow suit.
Shell for one is happy with the results of its discovery effort. “The initial indication is that the data we’re seeing looks really good,” Shell spokesperson Larry Lalonde told the Chronicle Herald in early September of this year. “We’re quite excited about what we are seeing.”
But local environmental activists are worried. And the concern is not just about spills like the one we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Concerns emerge even in this early discovery stage when geologists are determining how much oil there really is, and where exactly that oil can be found.
Problem is, that discovery process is a very noisy affair.
Seismic testing involves the use of airguns fired from moving ships. The airguns generate loudblasts below the ocean’s surface approximately every 20 seconds. The nature of the resulting seismic waves allow geologists to map the geological strata below the ocean floor.
Many environmentalists believe that the noise generated by airguns, almost as loud as dynamite explosions, has a profoundly negative effect on fish, sea turtles and whales in the seismic testing area.
Beaked Whales spend 98% of their time below the surface and are unlikely to be spotted by observers on board of the seismic testing vessels, biologist Lindy Weilgart tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Photo: WikiCommons.
Lindy Weilgart, a Dalhousie University research associate in Biology, has studied the effects of seismic testing on marine wildlife since she was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.
Biologist Lindy Weilgart believes more can be done to protect marine wildlife from seismic testing off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Dalhousie University
“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
Tell Ministers MacKay, Aglukkaq and Oliver what you think via Sierra Club Canada’s on-line letter writing campaign!
It appears nothing has been learned from the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Federal Government just announced that it has removed the requirement for environmental assessment for exploratory wells drilled in licenses areas, after the first well in any given “area” is drilled.
In Atlantic Canada, just what constitutes an “area” will be left to the discretion of offshore boards that are already in a conflict of interest position as promoters of development and protectors of marine habitat.
Seismic surveys are now also exempt from environmental assessment altogether, in spite of requests from scientists and citizens groups like Sierra Club Canada to put seismic blasting back on the list. Seismic testing can injure and even kill whales, fish larvae and alter the migratory routes of species. Seismic surveys have been linked to reductions in fish catches, as fish flee areas being blasted by seismic air guns.
As oil companies drill deeper and deeper and try to tap into new areas to find oil – like our North and the Gulf of St. Lawrence – rules should become tighter not weaker.
Unfortunately, in its mad rush to allow oil and gas companies into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the North, we are leaving ourselves open to massive amounts of damage by not carefully assessing the risks and listening to science and community concerns.
Please click here to submit your message to Ministers MacKay, Aglukkaq, and Oliver.
John Bennett Sierra Club Canada National Office 412-1 Nicholas St Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Mary Gorman – screenwriter, founding member of Save our Seas and Shores and grand prize winner of the Green Heroes Award was invited to present at the Citizens Climate Lobby first national conference. This recognition by a national NGO is an important breakthrough for our work in protecting the Gulf. Kudos to Mary Gorman!
New Glasgow News Sueann Musick
November 14, 2013
MERIGOMISH, NS – Mary Gorman will be taking her concerns over climate change and its effect on the ocean to a larger stage this weekend.
As founding member of the Save Our Seas and Shores coalition, Gorman will be a guest panelist at the Citizens Climate Lobbyists first national conference on Sunday in Gatineau, Que.
CCL is a growing organization of local volunteers in the United States and Canada in favour of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to help decrease the high amount of carbon emissions.
“The oceans are vast carbon sinks,” said Gorman. “In the 200 years since the industrial revolution began, our oceans have absorbed about 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into our atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the surface water and forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH of ocean waters. The more CO2 the oceans absorb, the more acidic they become. There are serious concerns about the ability of marine ecosystems to adapt to acidification. Organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons and shells will be greatly limited in their ability to form these outer protective shells. Commercial species such as lobster and shellfish are vulnerable to this impact.”
Gorman said the economy cannot continue to exist if government leaders ignore climate change. For example, she added, the Calgary floods and the recent typhoon in the Philippines are perfect examples of enormous costs if we don’t acknowledge that the climate is changing.
“What are natural disasters costing us?” she asked. “It is dumb economics to ignore our natural world. It is a giant credit card that is maxed out,” she said. “We can’t borrow anymore and we aren’t even making minimum payments.”
She said the conference is a good chance for her to inform people on a national level about the fragility of the ocean as well as share her views on the opposition to drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition says the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries deserve protection. The group wants the government to place a moratorium on oil and gas exploration so that these industries are not in jeopardy like those hurt in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer.
Other guest panelists at the conference include Dr. Shi-ling Hsu, author of The Case for a Carbon Tax, Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the anti-poverty organizations Results and current CEO for the Centre for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation as well as Celine Bak, president of Analytica Advisors and co-lead of The Canadian Clean Energy Coalition.
Cathy Orlando, national manager for Canada’s Citizens Climate Lobby, said Gorman was invited to be a guest speaker at the national conference because she supports a carbon tax and it will allow her to speak about her concerns in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
She said a carbon tax is levied on the carbon content of fuels such as coal, gas or oil and the extracted revenue is collected by the government and returned to Canadian citizens in the form of rebate cheque.
Experts believe the extra tax will force users of these fuels to cut down on their consumption in order to save money, alternatively looking at more natural sources of energy.
She said members at the conference and those of the CCL will be lobbying members of parliament to instate a carbon tax in Canada.
“Political will is keeping this from happening,” said Orlando. “There is a lot of fear in what a carbon tax will entail, but we know that we can have a low carbon economy and everyone can come out ahead.”