Sierra Club, SOSS Disappointed as Corridor Granted Third Free License Extension in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Sierra Club Canada Foundation and the Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS) Coalition are deeply disappointed that a third extension has been granted for Corridor Resources’ exploration lease in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by federal and provincial natural resources ministers. The junior oil company was obliged to pay $1 million dollars to extend its lease beyond Jan. 15th, 2016 and as of today that fee has been waived by amending the existing license according to a release by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

“There has been no action to fulfill obligations to carry out public consultations about this project for over a year now. This freebee extension is completely unjustified,” states Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “Given what is at stake: endangered species such as the blue whale, sustainable fisheries, and dangerous climate change, we think this license should have been allowed to expire. At the very least, companies should pay according to the rules laid out in their license agreements, not get them changed when their time is up.”

“What is shocking about this decision is that we still lack leadership based on scientific advice to protect the Gulf,” states Mary Gorman, who heads up the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “We’ve been calling for a moratorium on oil and gas in the Gulf for over sixteen years now, and we will be continuing to push for its protection in spite of this setback.”

The voices calling for protection of the Gulf continue to grow. In 2014 indigenous leaders called for a 12-year moratorium on oil and gas in the Gulf and this fall an historic water ceremony was held honouring the Gulf, with special guest actor and sometime Gulf resident Ethan Hawke.


For more information, please contact:

Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club Canada Foundation – Atlantic Chapter

902-444-7096 (mobile),

Mary Gorman,  SOSS Coalition

902-926-2128 (home), 902-759-5963 (mobile), or

Many hurdles for exploration in Gulf ~ Chronicle Herald

WEEKEND FOCUS AARON BESWICK Truro Bureau Chronicle Herald November 6, 2015

Actor Ethan Hawke, right, stands with Mi’kmaq elder Robert Pictou as he attends their community’s water ceremony on the shores of Pomquet Harbour last month to support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (ANDREW VAUGHAN / CP)

Low gas prices may be bigger obstacle than ecological concerns

Ethan Hawke might want to keep his powder dry.

When the Hollywood star held a news conference two weeks ago in Antigonish County with local First Nations and a group opposed to oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the media’s spotlight shone hard.

But after Hawke and all the reporters drove away in their gas-powered vehicles, two important questions remained.

If our society relies on hydrocarbons that we drill for on the Scotian Shelf and import from around the world, then why can’t we drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?

And how realistic is it that commercially viable oil will be found in the gulf anyway?

“The incredibly and blatantly obvious statement to make is that with oil prices down in numbers that start with a four (around US$40 dollars a barrel), the economic viability of many projects is not good,” said Gregory Chornoboy, a former oil industry analyst in Calgary who has reported on Corridor Resources.

“That would be an expensive well to drill.”

All the hype is around the plan of a Halifax junior exploration company to drill one exploratory well on a geological feature called Old Harry, about 80 kilometres west of Newfoundland’s most southern point.

“Old Harry has all the attributes required to hold a large resource,” said Grant Wach, a Dalhousie University geology professor who specializes in petroleum geoscience.

“But we won’t know until we drill.”

Basically, Old Harry is a big bubble of sandstone underneath the sea floor that is covered by shale rock.

Sandstone is important because it is filled with all kinds of little holes that can hold oil or gas. The shale is important because it works like a bottle cap, preventing the hydrocarbons from being released into the water.

So Corridor’s seismic data has indicated Old Harry is a good gas can. What’s not known is whether it’s empty.

A 2009 assessment by the Geological Survey of Canada estimated 39 trillion cubic feet of in-place natural gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, which includes Old Harry.

Those are big numbers that grabbed a lot of attention from the political and industrial leaders of the five cash-strapped provinces bordering the Gulf of St. Lawrence and from those opposed to oil exploration due to environmental concerns.

But don’t keep your eyes peeled on the horizon for tugs towing drilling rigs.

There have been 10 exploratory wells drilled in the gulf since 1944, none of which resulted in oil getting pumped out of the ground. Just one exploration well costs tens of millions of dollars to drill.

According to Corridor Resource’s annual reports, it has been unsuccessfully seeking a partner with deep pockets to fund its Old Harry exploration since 1997. In 2012, it went farther and hired consulting firm Macquarie Tristone to help it find a partner, but still no luck.

The price of oil, meanwhile, is half what it was in 2012.

“That’s always been a mystery to me,” Wach said when asked why a partner hasn’t been found.

“The geology is good and the technical staff at Corridor is superb. If this were in Alberta, it would be a slam dunk.”

But the communities surrounding the Gulf of St. Lawrence are a long way from Alberta.

“In the absence of objective scientific evidence stating that oil and gas activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence poses no real risks to our eco-system and to our renewable resources, all hydrocarbon exploration activities, including seismic testing, should be suspended,” reads a letter signed by 20 fishermen’s associations, fish plant owners and First Nations leaders recently sent to the federal ministers of environment, fisheries and oceans and natural resources.

Then there’s David Suzuki, the Sierra Club and a host of grassroots environmental groups adamantly opposed to more drilling in the gulf.

The image of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burning and sinking after a blowout in 2010 still holds power over a lot of minds on the East Coast.

Representatives of Shell Canada and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board were grilled by the legislature’s resource committee on response plans in the event of a blowout during drilling of two exploration wells about 250 kilometres southwest of Shelburne over the next 10 months.

So if we allow drilling on the Atlantic coast, why would we not allow it in the gulf? Both are important fishing grounds that could be badly hurt by an oil spill.

And the boats that take fishermen, scientists and tourists out to both waterways are powered by hydrocarbons that came out of the ground somewhere.

“We recognize as a society that not every activity can take place everywhere,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University.

“We don’t do nuclear testing everywhere. We don’t build polluting industries in residential areas.”

He said he doesn’t think there should be drilling on the Scotian Shelf or in the gulf. But the gulf, said Worm, would be particularly sensitive to a spill due to a combination of geography and biology.

It exchanges water with the Atlantic Ocean through the Cabot Strait and the Strait of Belle Isle. This means that water circulates around the gulf before draining out.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is also significantly colder than the Gulf of Mexico and lacks the bacteria that work to naturally break down oil. So oil spilled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and carried into river estuaries would be there for a long time, said Worm.

Those salt marsh estuaries, protected by the Atlantic’s big waves, are nurseries for all manner of sea creatures. The spartina salt grasses of those estuaries, meanwhile, produce more biological matter per hectare than the rainforest and flush it out to fuel the ocean food web.

Wach said the industry has learned a lot since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and people should take a holistic view. Oil tankers and large ships carrying many chemicals pass through the gulf daily on their way to fuel the industries of Central Canada; those, he said, are a greater risk than a single exploratory well.

The stakes are high. The decision on whether Corridor gets permission to drill will fall to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, responsible for the area of the gulf in which most of Old Harry is located.

Corridor is midway through the board’s environmental assessment process, which has drawn lots of public comment from those opposed to the project.

“Geologists are usually optimists, so I do think it will happen,” said Wach.

But geologists don’t hold the purse strings. Those who do at big companies like British Petroleum and Shell haven’t come forward yet to team up with Corridor.

While no-one from the company was available to comment this week on Old Harry, president Steve Moran provided a written statement.

“Corridor is confident it can proceed safely and responsibly with its exploration programs at Old Harry, under Canada’s rigorous environmental regulation,” Moran wrote.

“This exploration program is currently before the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Corridor will continue to address any issues raised as part of this regulatory process.”

Source: Chronicle Herald


Media Advisory

May 7, 2014

The Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Save Our Seas and Shores are condemning the Newfoundland offshore board’s finding to allow the oil and gas industry to gain a toehold in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board released the results of a Strategic Environmental Assessment for Western Newfoundland on May 5th.

 “This decision confirms that these offshore boards are not capable of being a truly arms-length independent regulator,” according to Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Atlantic Canada Chapter of Sierra Club. “The consultations performed as part of this assessment were woefully inadequate – and their decision that that they can mitigate oil development in sensitive marine areas with spawning, nurseries and migration happening year around for over 2200 marine species is irresponsible and sets a reckless precedent.”

The report and public consultations for the environmental assessment were performed by AMEC, which boasts on its website that it is the world’s “largest oil and gas industry services provider.”

This same offshore board approved seismic testing – which involves deafening blasts from underwater air guns – in the Gulf of St Lawrence, while endangered blue whales were migrating in 2010.

“I want this alleged regulator to state how they think they can clean up an oil spill under winter ice,” states Mary Gorman of Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “ This winter, they couldn’t even get the Newfoundland ferry unstuck in sea ice – how would they deal with a massive oil disaster? Furthermore, they have completely ignored the fact that the Gulf of St Lawrence has counter clockwise currents like a toilet, that only flushes once a year into the Atlantic, leaving months for a spill to wash on the beaches of NS, NB, PEI, NL and QC.”

The offshore board’s decision was released just days after the publication of the May edition of National Geographic Magazine, which features a stunning article and images of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The article closes with the quote: ”The good news is we get to choose—algal weeds or whales, oil-eating bacteria or seals. We get to choose because for now the gulf is still wild with life, with trillions of individual organisms, and a great many hopes and dreams.”



Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores, 902.926.2128

Gretchen Fitzgerald, Campaigns Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, 902.444.3113  (office), 902.444.7096 (cell), @SierraClubACC

Link to National Geographic Feature, The Generous Gulf:

Recovering oil “almost impossible” in event of winter oil spill says ecotoxicology scientist

Emergency response to disasters in Gulf of St. Lawrence CBC Radio Quebec

Friday October 25, 2013

In the event of an oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, who are you going to call? The Environment ministry of Quebec? New Brunswick? PEI? Newfoundland? The federal government? That’s just one of the problems scientists from around the world pinpointed at the Ocean Innovation Conference in Rimouski this week.

Listen to this short CBC interview with Dr. Émilien Pelletier, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Marine Ecotoxicology at the Université du Québec in Rimouski. He states that it would be “almost impossible” to recover oil, if a spill occurred in the winter in the Gulf. The ice cover would trap the oil under the surface for months, with it resurfacing in the spring, especially in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Strong winds in the Gulf, plus the ice cover, would make a clean up in the winter next to impossible.

Quiet Walk for the Protection of the Gulf in Charlottetown, PEI

Held on September 11, 2012 in Charlottetown, calling on provincial, territorial and federal energy ministers to where provincial energy ministers to enact a moratorium

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release

September 11, 2012

Coalition Walks in Silence For A Moratorium on Oil and Gas Development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Urge Energy Ministers to Protect Gulf’s Renewable Beauty and Bounty
CHARLOTTETOWN – Save Our Seas and Shores, a multi-provincial coalition of coastal landowners, fishermen, tourism, indigenous and environmental groups, are holding a quiet walk today to urge Canada’s Energy Ministers to call for a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“We are walking in silence to convey our grave concern about the profound damage offshore oil and gas development could do to our Gulf. We hope the energy ministers will take a moment  to pause and reflect on the beauty, richness, diversity and renewable bounty our Gulf provides.” said Ellie Reddin, of Cornwall, PEI.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is home to over 2,000 marine species, many of which are endangered. Six and a half times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico, it is a semi-landlocked inland sea with counter-clockwise currents. Because it only exchanges its waters with the Atlantic once a year and due to strong tides within the Gulf, any oil contamination could be widespread along the coastlines of NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL over the course of a year.

“It makes no sense whatsoever to jeopardize our valuable marine beauty and renewable resources to access non-renewable fossil fuels that should be left in the ground,” said Reddin.

The Coalition is concerned about ‘Old Harry’ and other leases recently issued by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) before adequate study of the potentially dire environmental and economic risk such reckless development could pose.

“Without widespread public concern and action, petroleum development in the deep waters and fishing grounds of the Gulf of St Lawrence will proceed, under stripped down environmental legislation that does not even require assessment of seismic surveys and exploratory wells! This is a huge risk to an ecosystem already heavily damaged by land based pollution, declining oxygen, rising temperatures and rapidly increasing acidity. Bear in mind that the Gulf of Mexico BP Macondo disaster was an exploratory well and years later, fish are now surfacing with horrible deformities.” said Dr. Irene Novaczek, a marine biologist and Director of the Institute of Island Studies at UPEI.

The Gulf’s multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries provide jobs for over 50,000 Canadians in five provinces and this revenue goes directly back into provincial economies – unlike oil revenues, which primarily profit domestic and foreign shareholders. The Coalition contends that the Gulf should be placed under moratorium because it is too fragile for any oil and gas development.

“Oil and gas companies say they will mitigate risk.  But mitigation can only happen if enough science exists to determine how to mitigate. Because of the profound knowledge gaps on Gulf species (e.g. little is known about early life stages of marine organisms or habitat requirements of all life stages) it would be irresponsible and a betrayal of the public interest for our governments to proceed with this development” said Mary Gorman of Merigomish, NS.

“Offshore oil companies may be experts at extraction, but they are nowhere near experts at reducing destruction caused by seismic blasting, or eliminating the risks of exploratory and production well blowouts. Nor do they know how to clean up oil spills before damage occurs, particularly in our Gulf with its high winds and winter ice cover” said Gorman. The Coalition says, if energy ministers and political leaders are not convinced there should be a moratorium, they should look at it this way. If the oil companies are wrong, in twenty years the fish will be gone and the oil and gas will be gone.  If we’re wrong, in twenty years, the fish will still be there and the oil and gas will still be there.

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

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,

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

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


English Troy Jerome

Cell. (506) 759-2000

Environmentalists Express Concern Over Report of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board

For immediate release – May 8, 2014

Charlottetown – The report of the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board this week recommending that oil and gas exploration and development can “generally proceed” in the Gulf of St. Lawrence comes as a disappointment to local environmentalists. The update on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) acknowledged but did not respond to concerns expressed by scientists and citizens from across the region who took the time to participate in the SEA update. They pointed to the huge risks associated with exploration and drilling, to the marine ecosystem of the Gulf, and to communities that depend on fisheries and tourism.

The report indicates that some places within the Gulf may require special consideration, but it fails to address the key feature of the Gulf, which are its semi-closed nature, its ice-cover for part of the year, and the way in which currents flow. “In the event of a spill or leakage, oil would disperse widely, with disastrous effect,” says Ian Forgeron, a member of the PEI chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores.

The Gulf supports a rich ecosystem which includes several species of whale, from beluga to blue and sperm whales; the largest breeding colonies of puffins in North America, as well as lobster, snow crab, Bluefin tuna and what is left of the northern cod. People and communities around the Gulf have depended on this rich ecosystem for their existence: fishing and hunting, aquaculture, tourism. The economic value of commercial fisheries has been estimated at $1.5 billion annually. Eel and salmon in the estuaries are a source of income for First Nations communities throughout the region.

Jordan MacPhee, a UPEI student and member of SOSS PEI points out that the Gulf is already under pressure from overfishing and climate change. He says that against this background, oil and gas extraction must be seen as a very real threat. And, he says, what happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico has shown us what kind of devastation can happen. “Even when the highest level of technology is applied, there is room for human error. The environmental impacts of the BP blow-out are still being felt. Livelihoods were destroyed, and people continue to report critical health effects, in part from the chemicals used to disperse the oil.”

Locally, several communities have passed resolutions calling on the Government of PEI to work towards a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf. Regionally, a coalition of Innu, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq people has formed to protest oil and gas development in the Gulf, and call for a moratorium. Similarly, in Quebec all of the municipalities in Gaspésie and les Iles de la Madeleine have joined together and have demanded a moratorium.

“We need a moratorium now”, says Forgeron. “There is too much at risk. We need to see the Gulf for what it is – one of the world’s most beautiful and rich ecosystems – and preserve it. Particularly as the inherent risks of exploration and drilling in the Gulf are at the expense of the existing fishery, tourism, and other sectors so important to the Prince Edward Island economy.”

Press Releases | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

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.

Media Release

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.”

– END –

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.”


Blue Whale Campaign launches in Atlantic Canada

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