Why NS should protect Gulf waters

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