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.
March 13, 2012
Coalition Criticizes Minister Oliver’s ‘Waffling’ on Independent Safety Regulators for Canada’s Offshore
A Coalition of fishermen, First Nations, environmentalists and coastal landowners are rallying against Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s recent ‘waffling’ on the need for a separate, independent safety regulator for NL’s offshore petroleum industry. The coalition is responding to recent comments made in NL by Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver who stated he is questioning whether an independent safety regulator is needed.
“Retired Judge Robert Wells’s inquiry into the deaths of 17 offshore workers in the 2009 Cougar helicopter crash recommended a separate, independent safety regulator for NL’s offshore industry. What was the point of this Inquiry if the federal government is going to ignore Justice Wells’ vital recommendations?” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, executive director of Sierra Club-Atlantic Chapter.
“It is disgraceful that Minister Oliver is hedging on this vital issue of safety, not only for Canadian offshore workers, but also for the safety of our east coast fishery, renewable marine resources and the ecosystems that support them,” says Dr. Irene Novaczek of UPEI. “After the BP disaster, the U.S. government set up a separate safety regulator for American offshore waters. Why is Canada stalling on this vital safety measure?” she says.
“Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, there is still no herring fishery in Prince William Sound, where the spill occured,” says Greg Egilsson, an inshore fishermen and president of the Gulf NS Herring Federation. “Fishermen are concerned a similar fate could await our east coast fishing industry, if the federal government persists in refusing to exercise its responsibility to protect the safety of east coast offshore workers, fishermen and marine ecosystems,” says Egilsson.
“A pattern of unfairness and disrespect for the importance of Canada’s east coast fishery and the tens of thousands of renewable jobs it creates, prevails in our federal government as it persistently favours transnational oil companies,” says Mary Gorman of Save Our Seas and Shores, a coalition set up to prevent offshore oil development in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, where over 2,000 marine species spawn, nurse and migrate year around.
The Coalition points to the federal government’s refusal to launch a Federal Review Panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to examine whether exploration should proceed in Canada’s Gulf as evidence of a bias for offshore oil companies. A Senate report commissioned after the BP spill has also recommended examining the “possible” conflict of interest position for offshore boards when it comes to regulating safety and the environment.
The Coalition stands united with Justice Wells’ recommendation for a separate, independent safety regulator for NL’s offshore and states the NS government should also be implementing a separate safety regulator for its offshore development. Additionally, federal power environment and fishery protection should be restored to federal government and not handed off to offshore boards.
July 22, 2011
Planned Cuts to Environment Assessment Agency Could Leave Gulf Open to Oil and Gas
New Glasgow, NS – Plans to slash the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency budget to a paltry $17 million alarmed a coalition of community, fisheries, and Aboriginal groups engaged in protecting the Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas.
“These cuts are not only bad news for environmental protection in this country but also reflect an erosion of our democratic rights in Canada,” says Mary Gorman of Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.
“The Newfoundland offshore petroleum board has called for a federal assessment of the impacts of oil and gas on the Gulf,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter, “We are alarmed these cuts indicate the Prime Minister has not taken the Board’s recommendation seriously. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to fork over billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil.”
The Wells Commission, which examined the causes of the deaths of 17 workers in the 2009 helicopter crash in Newfoundland’s offshore, called for better environmental regulation of the offshore. Canada’s Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and Environment have also stated that offshore boards like the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), may be in a conflict of interest when it comes to safety and the environment, and that their role should be reviewed.
“Canadians created laws and processes like the environmental assessment act to evaluate risk and protect special and valuable ecosystems like the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” say Mary Gorman, head of the Save our Seas and Shores Coalition, “How can Canada possibly meet its moral obligations to prevent environmental destruction when environmental protection agencies are being gutted?”
The Coalition is calling on Minister Kent to engage all five provinces and aboriginal leaders in a joint review panel of impacts of oil and gas in the Gulf.
Save Our Seas and Shores FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2010
Halifax, NS – A coalition of environmental, First Nations and inshore fisheries organizations is calling on the Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and federal governments to act immediately on the Wells Inquiry recommendation that arms-length regulation is needed to protect the environment and safety of workers in the offshore.
The Wells Commission was established by the Newfoundland and Labrador government to review safety in the offshore after the tragic crash of a helicopter on March 12, 2009, resulting in the loss of seventeen lives.
“Right now, we continue to fight to keep oil and gas out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We believe that no regulator who put safety and the environment first would ever allow oil in the Gulf: it’s simply not worth the risk,” say Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “Lives have been lost. Let’s learn from our mistakes.”
“This review points to flaws in our regulatory process that make the regulators of the offshore its promoters,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter, “We need to separate these two conflicting roles before another tragedy occurs.”
“Having participated in offshore oil and gas assessments for fifteen years, I know of only two cases where charges have been laid for spills off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – in spite of frequent spills of oil and toxic drilling muds.” says Mark Butler, Policy Director of the Ecology Action Centre. “This type of cosy relationship with industry is what led to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”
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For more information, please contact: Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, 902-926-2128 Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director, Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter, 902-444-3113
Mark Butler, Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre, 902-429-5287
Save Our Seas and Shores PRESS RELEASE:
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.
Save Our Seas and Shores For Immediate Release
October 4, 2010
PICTOU, NS – Today’s decision by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) to allow seismic blasting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was met with shock and concern by a coalition calling for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The coalition – made of aboriginal, fishing, and environmental organizations – is calling on municipal, provincial, federal, and aboriginal leaders to act swiftly to halt the testing.
“With this decision, the CNLOPB has approved an activity that could damage this entire precious ecosystem,” according to Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores, “We want this decision reversed immediately, and action taken to allow jurisdictions bordering on the Gulf to have a say in its future.”
“Seismic testing could start very soon, potentially damaging marine mammals like blue whales, and disrupting fish and fisheries. This approval has given oil and gas as a toehold in the Gulf that could lead to full scale drilling,” according to Danielle Giroux of Attention Fragile (Magdalen Islands). “Fishermen I work for need more say over protecting the Gulf. We want the CNLOPB’s decision reversed immediately.”
“An oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence would impact fish stocks and coastal communities in Quebec, PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia,and Newfoundland. Moreover, the national importance of this ecosystem must be upheld.” says Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Chapter. “ Federal laws to protect endangered species and fish habitat recognize the importance of protecting our shared biodiversity and resources. This decision is not reflecting this shared responsibility or concerns expressed by groups around the Gulf.”