July 17, 2013
Green Heroes: Well loved author and conservationist Farley Mowat with local resident Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. (Photo courtesy of Cinefocus Canada)
MERIGOMISH – The oceans dominate our blue planet yet marine species are some of the first to go. Called into action, Green Heroes are defending marine life with every means necessary, from the written word to waging battles at sea. Green Heroes™ is back for a second season. This time there is a new group of heroes in this smart, sexy and green Web/TV crossover and a local woman, Mary Gorman, is one of them.
Produced by CineFocus Canada in association with TVO, the six 30-minute series (www.greenheroes.tv/tv-episodes) tells stories of people who acted on their ideas and “ventured forth” to protect the planet. From the celebrity to the everyday person, each story details the different paths and interests the Green Heroes have taken in their quests to help save the world.
The story arch of each episode begins with the tipping point event of Green Heroes – the moment that moved them from apathy to action. It then tells of the obstacles and challenges they overcame, ending on the impact their action had on the environment. The goal is to show how a change was made and a community inspired, and to surprise people by including Green Heroes who are not your status quo, but whose story speaks to a mainstream audience. By shining a light on real people who have become Green Heroes through their actions and dedication, the aim is to give everyday people the nudge they need to also become passionate green participants.
Mary Gorman of Merigomish is trying to stop a disaster before it starts: Canada’s own Gulf Oil Spill. Twelve years ago, she turned from fisherman’s wife to Green Hero after two leases were issued for oil and gas development on the shores of her home. Knowing spills were likely and would impact 2,000 marine species including endangered ones, Gorman decided to prevent a disaster instead of reacting later. Today, she has formed a growing movement – Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition – with support from celebrities like Ethan Hawke and Jason Priestley. Her struggle and resulting victory led to her winning the inaugural Green Heroes award, as selected by fans of the web channel and a jury of esteemed environmental and broadcast judges.
Farley Mowat is one of Canada’s most widely read authors and best-known conservationists. His books, such as Never Cry Wolf, have reached more than 14 million readers. After Mowat’s war service in 1946, he trekked in Canada’s Great North where he witnessed the demise of indigenous culture and animals by industrial colonialism. Today, he is one of Canada’s most vocal conservationists, using his books and voice to shed light on the loss of nature and the need to protect it. He is an active supporter of such groups as Sea Shepherd and Mary Gorman’s mission to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Gorman says of Mowat: “Not only did Farley fight for Canada in World War 2, he has been fighting ever since to protect our world’s vast oceans that were once brimming with wildlife. He will go down in history not only as a literary icon but as one of the world’s earliest and bravest environmentalists, who understands how dependent we are on healthy oceans”.
Alexandra Cousteau is another Green Hero. Through her Blue Legacy project and as a filmmaker and TV host, Cousteau continues the work of her renowned grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau and her father Philippe Cousteau Sr.
Green Heroes aired Tuesday night and will air again Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on TVO.
By Ellie Reddin Commentary
May 17, 2013
(Published title: Our key concerns about oil development in the Gulf)
Members of Save Our Seas and Shores-PEI Chapter (SOSS PEI) were taken aback by the comments made by Premier Ghiz on CBC Radio after our petition signed by 1,212 Islanders was presented to the legislative assembly by Liberal MLA Buck Watts on April 30.
His response, that “there is no need for a moratorium on drilling in P.E.I. territorial waters because P.E.I. doesn’t have any oil,” gives us reason to believe he is not aware of the important role he could take to protect our Island and the Gulf of St. Lawrence from potential disaster.
By declaring a moratorium as our petition requests, the P.E.I. government would send a clear message to our neighbouring provinces and the federal government that P.E.I. will take the necessary time to consider the true value of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and that P.E.I. is not willing to passively accept the risks inherent in projects presently being considered, such as Corridor Resources’ Old Harry Prospect.
As we have seen in the past, most notably with the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the impact of oil spills can be devastating for the environment and for the industries – fishing, aquaculture and tourism – that depend on a healthy marine ecosystem. In the case of the Old Harry Prospect, P.E.I. has nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Premier Ghiz might be technically correct in saying that P.E.I. does not have oil in its territorial waters since legally territorial waters extend only to the low-water mark. But our petition refers to both oil and gas. And we know there has been a “significant discovery” of gas off East Point in an area considered part of P.E.I.’s “portion” of the gulf (for the purposes of federal-provincial co-management agreements on petroleum development). This site is under permanent lease to BP Canada Energy Company. BP obtained an exploration license in 1987. That licence has since expired and it does not appear that BP is likely to seek a new exploration license anytime soon. This raises the following question: Is the provincial government planning to sign a federal-provincial agreement for petroleum development in its portion of the Gulf so that at some future date the province could receive royalties if BP were to seek a new exploration licence?
In addition to requesting a moratorium in P.E.I. waters, our petition requested that the P.E.I. government work with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and the federal government to protect and manage the gulf ecosystem and to establish a permanent ban on exploration and drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
To date, only Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have implemented petroleum development agreements with the federal government and have consequently established offshore petroleum boards; in addition, only Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have petroleum development interests in the Atlantic Ocean. The Nova Scotia board has not been active in the gulf for more than 10 years. All five provinces share the risks, but only Newfoundland and Labrador will reap any benefits from current licences in the gulf.
Quebec has signed but not yet implemented a federal-provincial agreement. Quebec still has an ongoing moratorium in its part of the gulf and is currently conducting a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to help determine whether or not it should lift its moratorium. Recent information indicates that New Brunswick intends to sign and implement an agreement as soon as possible.
Instead of taking a far-sighted, environmentally responsible stand, it seems all five provinces are intent on rushing us headlong into folly and disaster. Since Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have offshore petroleum agreements and boards, it appears that all the provinces must have them, regardless of the consequences. We had hoped for better from our government. It is the governments, not the petroleum boards, who are ultimately responsible for the fate of the gulf.
Over the past two years, members of SOSS have met with Premier Ghiz and have sent him several letters with attached studies documenting the risks of oil and gas development in the gulf and discussing the shortcomings of the current oversight process. His statement that “we trust the systems that are in place now to ensure that the regulations and environmental procedures are being followed” indicates that he is not aware of the following facts:
• In his Fall 2012 report, Scott Vaughan, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada, clearly pointed out that Canada is not technically ready to face a major spill in the gulf.
• Environment Canada has determined that a major spill would have multi-provincial impacts and the David Suzuki Foundation has carried out oil spill simulations that indicate all five provinces surrounding the gulf could suffer from the impacts of a spill.
• Costs to British Petroleum associated with the Deep Water Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico are estimated at more than $40 billion. In Canada, however, liability for costs resulting from a major spill or blowout in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is limited to $30 million. Taxpayers would be responsible for all costs above $30 million.
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is currently updating its Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the P.E.I. government has a representative on the Working Group for the SEA. This leads to the following questions: What policy position has that representative been instructed to take? Are P.E.I.’s interests, including the interests of Islanders who make their livings from fishing, tourism and aquaculture, the interests of the Mi’kmaq First Nation and the interests of future generations, being adequately considered during the SEA process?
If oil development is allowed to continue in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and a major oil spill or blowout occurs, how will all those who lose their livelihoods be compensated?
What consideration is being given to the effects of seismic testing and drilling on blue whales, dolphins, leatherback turtles, seabirds, fish and other marine wildlife in the gulf?
We have respectively requested that the government of P.E.I. provide answers to these questions.
Ellie Reddin co-ordinates the P.E.I. Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores
Concerns over oil drilling brought to P.E.I. Legislature May 1, 2013
The Guardian (PEI)
A group of concerned citizens calling on the Prince Edward Island government to declare a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence brought their concerns to the P.E.I. legislature Tuesday.
Representatives from Save Our Seas and Shores brought forward a petition with more than 1,200 signatures, asking the P.E.I. government to take the lead in opposing an offshore oil prospect being explored by Corridor Resources Inc.
The petition was tabled in the P.E.I. legislature Tuesday.
“We’re very concerned about the effects on the Gulf of St. Lawrence if seismic testing and drilling for oil goes ahead,” said Ellie Reddin.
“People remember in 2010 the big oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, well, the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a lot smaller and the effects could be devastating for tourism and our fisheries industries as well as for people with coastal properties.”
Corridor Resources has applied to the CanadaNewfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to drill a well east of Prince Edward Island.
The area known as the ‘Old Harry’ prospect in the Laurentian Channel in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest undrilled prospects in Eastern Canada and is estimated to hold up to two billion barrels of recoverable oil or up to five trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas.
If regulatory approval is obtained, the proposed well should be drilled by the end of 2014, according to the company’s website.
The drilling project has garnered much concern and criticism by individuals and groups across Atlantic Canada and the Iles de la Madeleine who are worried about the devastating effects a possible spill or blowout.
Grade 8 students Lilly Hickox and Caroline Galloway decided to turn their concern into action.
They saw volunteers with Save our Seas and Shores at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market and were inspired to help spread the group’s message and recruit support.
They took brochures and signs to their school and encouraged fellow students and teachers to sign their name to the petition.
The two students gathered almost half the total number of signatures on the petition.
We think it’s important to preserve the environment, and we don’t want an oil spill because it could kill marine life and there are endangered species too that could be at risk,” Galloway said.
“Hopefully, our work will result in positive results so that they will stop the plans for oil drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” Hickox said.
Premier Robert Ghiz said he hopes the environmental reviews done by the federal offshore petroleum board overseeing this project will be diligent in ensuring it will not go ahead if it poses a risk to the waters off P.E.I.
“It’s something that we’ll watch, but we trust the systems that are in place now to ensure that the regulations and environmental procedures are being followed,” Ghiz said.
In an interview with CBC, Premier Robert Ghiz responded to the petitions saying that there is no need for a moratorium on drilling in P.E.I. waters because P.E.I. doesn’t have any oil. The story of the petition was also covered in The Telegram (St. John’s) on May 2nd. Richard Raiswell, a political columnist with CBC radio’s Mainstreet, takes notice of Premier Ghiz’s careful wording, and shares his own thoughts about oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Should the provincial government on Prince Edward Island take steps to prevent drilling for natural gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence? Commentary by Richard Raiswell.
The Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy is examining the province’s rural economic prospects in a series of community meetings held around the province.
Acadia University president and commission chair Ray Ivany, called the commission’s work a chance for Nova Scotians to discuss potential future prosperity for rural areas in NS.
“Nova Scotia is on the brink of its greatest opportunity in generations. We’ve got the shipbuilding contracts, offshore exploration and construction of the Maritime Link… It’s exciting. But I believe that our local economies throughout Nova Scotia – not just in HRM – can thrive, not simply survive, by understanding these opportunities, and sharing ideas about building a better future.”
One wonders what planet Mr. Ivany lives on to suggest that offshore oil exploration can build a better future for Nova Scotians. Not everyone agrees with him.
The Pictou Advocate covered the meeting in Stellarton, NS. In the April 3, 2013 edition, the article notes:
“Some residents have been skeptical of the exercise due to growing concern over oil and gas exploration, such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, proposed to extract possibly viable underground natural gas supplies inland, as well as exploratory drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that stakeholders fear would harm the gulf’s fishery.”
The article goes on to quote a local resident, Trudy Watts, who is president of a community development cooperative in the area who stated:
“The blowout of the Deepwater exploratory oil well in the Gulf of Mexico – and the resulting damage to tourism, fishery and restaurant industries – should be enough to bump offshore exploration off Mr. Ivany’s Top 3 list,” she said. “I hope that the commission is truly open to a diversity of ideas that will no doubt include enhancing our fishery and tourism sectors, as part of the way we build a smart, sustainable economy that includes rural Nova Scotians.”
We can only hope that the commission’s interim report, due to come out later in April, will showcase the ideas for a healthy sustainable future which include an oil free Gulf of St. Lawrence.
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
March 15, 2013
By Colin Jeffrey
Most of us may not realize it, but oil and gas development is well underway in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Newfoundland has led the charge, issuing eight exploratory leases along its southern and western coasts. Quebec has also issued exploratory leases, although they have been suspended until the province negotiates a working agreement with the federal government. At first glance, it may appear that increased fossil fuel development is inevitable considering the growing international demand for hydrocarbons. Such development may also appear to provide a welcome boost to our provincial economies, offering jobs and prosperity. However, in reality offshore oil and gas drilling poses unacceptable risks to our environment, our economies, and hence ourselves.
As a member of Save Our Seas and Shores, an Atlantic Canadian non-profit organization working to protect the health of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, I would like to describe three reasons why I am opposed to offshore drilling. To begin with, offshore drilling pollutes marine environments. First there is the risk of large oil spills, which can pollute marine ecosystems for decades. Even under ideal cleanup conditions it is estimated that only 15 per cent of the spilled oil is recoverable. Winds above 40 kilometres (common here for half of the year), sea ice and storms can all bring cleanup efforts to a standstill. Then there are the frequent smaller spills of oil, gasoline, drilling fluids and other toxic ingredients. According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, three oil rigs on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland have produced 337 spills since 1997, dumping an estimated 430,000 litres of toxic pollutants into the ocean. Eventual leaks from capped wells can also contribute to marine pollution for decades.
Oil and gas development is often encouraged for its supposed economic benefits. However, there is little evidence that the majority of fossil fuel revenues remain in the regions where drilling takes place. Much of the revenue generated flows directly to extraction companies and their investors. While provincial governments benefit from production royalties, this money is not always spent wisely or in ways that benefit the regions where extraction takes place. In addition, there is now significant evidence that renewable energy production offers more substantial economic benefits than the production of fossil fuels. For instance, a recent comprehensive study of the economic impacts of both renewable and fossil fuel energy in America concludes that “all renewable energy sources generate more jobs than the fossil fuel sector per unit of energy delivered” (Kammen, Patadia & Wei, 2010, p. 928). Energy efficiency measures in particular are found to produce jobs with minimal investment costs.
Finally there is climate change, a looming disaster that we would all like to forget about. Unfortunately, ignoring this problem is certainly not going to make it disappear. On the contrary, if we do not begin to substantially cut our greenhouse gas emissions now our world as we have known it will disappear. With a current rise in global temperatures of 0.8 degrees Celsius, climatologists estimate that if we stopped pumping carbon into the atmosphere tomorrow the earth would continue to warm a further 0.8 degrees from the greenhouse gases already up there. Since it is widely accepted by scientists that more than two degrees of global warming could irrevocably change our environment and create runaway climate change impacts, we have very little time in which to scale back our use of fossil fuels and begin converting to a renewable energy economy.
In today’s polluted and carbon-saturated world, fossil fuel extraction is a dangerous and antiquated energy production system. Fortunately, we have alternatives. Renewable energy systems offer a chance to create clean energy that provides better local economic benefits. In the process, we could reduce climate change impacts and ensure that our waters continue to sustain our tourism and fishing industries. Save Our Seas and Shores has started a petition that calls on the provincial government to place a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development within Prince Edward Island’s territorial waters. For those interested in signing the petition, it will be available at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market on March 16 and printable copies can be found at http://peiwatershedalliance.org/web/?p=573
Kammen, D., Patadia, S. & Wei, M. (2010). Putting renewables and energy efficiency to work: How many jobs can the clean energy industry generate in the US?. Energy Policy, 38, 919-931.
Colin Jeffrey of West Covehead holds a master’s degree in resource and environmental management from Dalhousie University.
Opinion The Guardian
February 15, 2013
Oil and gas exploration is well underway in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a marine resource that abuts PEI and underpins our livelihoods and environment. The Gulf is an environmentally significant area for marine wildlife and it is of the utmost importance it is protected for our well being. Our province is dependent on marine resources that will be – perhaps irreversibly – compromised by the demonstrated, accidental outcomes of intrinsically dangerous, offshore petroleum development. Given our world’s increasing appetite for fossil fuels, there will be more pressure to exploit petroleum resources in the Gulf. Do we want to sacrifice our Island way of life and the quality of our environment to feed the global petroleum habit?
A recent report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development through the office of the Auditor General of Canada outlines some very alarming findings regarding Atlantic offshore oil and gas activities. “While the Canada-Nova Scotia and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador boards have adequately managed the day-to-day environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas activities, they and their federal partners need to do more to prepare for a major oil spill.” The report suggests that there is evidence that no capacity exists to respond to a significant oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when – and not if – it occurs. Since 1997 three oil rigs operating in Newfoundland waters have created 337 spills, dumping an estimated 430,000 litres of toxic material into the Atlantic Ocean. If the industry considers this result an acceptable risk, what will we do when there is a big spill? To make matters worse, the maximum corporate liability for an oil spill is 30 million. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost 37 billion to date.
The report also states “The boards’ responsibilities have been significantly affected by recent changes to the federal environmental assessment process.” The government of Canada has relaxed and/or eliminated environmental regulations and protection measures to allow for unhindered resource development throughout the country. The Gulf of St. Lawrence borders five provinces that will suffer when an oil spill occurs… and oil spills in the waters of neighboring provinces will not recognize political boundaries.
Our marine conditions in the Gulf, including sea ice, present a much greater environmental risk than land based activities. The Gulf has been compared to a small inland sea with very low flushing rates and recovery potential. We would have to live with the oil spill and its consequences indefinitely if not permanently. Are we really ready to accept offshore drilling in the Gulf and deal with the environmental consequences and devastation to our island economy and way of life? No, place a moratorium on oil and gas development activities in the Gulf now before it is too late.
This guest opinion has been co-authored by Mark Bishop, Chairman of the PEI Watershed Alliance, and Shawn Hill, Executive Director.
September 27, 2011
This blog post first appeared on blog.greenheroes.tv
Mother Nature will have the final word
Canada’s national media has been ignoring our struggle against unnecessary fossil fuel development on our East Coast. Obviously unnecessary, since even Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver concedes an ‘excess’ of supply is coming out of the Tar Sands. A coalition of fishermen, First Nations, environmentalists, scientists, teachers etc have been struggling for over a year to have our voices heard in an effort to protect Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, home to over 2,000 marine species, from offshore oil and gas development.
With the nuclear fallout in the Japan Sea and the ongoing Gulf of Mexico crisis, it seems that more and more of our earth’s natural renewable marine food supply is in peril. According to DFO scientists, ‘over one million ton of fish migrate through the Gulf of St. Lawrence annually’. Does anyone with any common sense honestly believe this is sustainable without identifying and protecting this sensitive marine breeding ground that is our Gulf?
It is incomprehensible to me that at a point in history when scientists, from all over the world, are warning us to ease up on fossil fuels, to give Mother Nature a chance to heal, that in NL, NS and all of Canada, we are full throttle ahead with fossil fuel development.
What right does our generation have to suck every last drop of fossil fuels out of this earth? These precious nonrenewable fuels may well be needed by future generations.
And to Mr. Harper’s government who called climate change protesters ‘extremists’ in the House of Commons, let me assure you, the extremists are those in denial of climate change, wilfully blinded by greed.
Mother Nature doesn’t give one hoot whether or not you believe in climate change. She will rebalance this earth from the rapacious ‘excesses’ of the industrial revolution. Mother Nature will have the final word on this battle.
Mary Gorman of Merigomish, N.S., is a writer and unwaged activist, and is a co-founder of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.
July 19, 2011
This blog post first appeared as a Commentary in the Guardian PEI.
Protecting our gulf for future generations
The Tar Sands is not our only ecological struggle in Canada. A coalition of environmentalists, First Nations, inshore fishers, scientists, tourism operators, artists, teachers and municipalities from the Maritimes and Quebec are uniting to fight a preventive battle – to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from offshore oil development.
A company has applied to drill an exploratory well in ‘Old Harry’, located in the Laurentian Channel, which is the main artery in and out of our Gulf for over 2,000 marine species who spawn, nurse and migrate year around. Dr. David Suzuki calls it “one of the most precious ecosystems on our planet”. It is divinely beautiful.
The offshore oil industry likes to talk about co-existence and mitigation. But how can there be co-existence if spawning, nursery and migratory areas are up for grabs? The science on these 2,000 marine species is so limited, mitigation becomes just another ‘spin’ word. How does one mitigate the unknown?
Our Gulf is six times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico. The magnitude of last year’s BP spill would have covered completely the coastlines of half the provinces in the country. With counterclockwise currents, it only empties into the Atlantic once a year. It is one of the windiest regions in North America with winter ice cover. (How do you clean up spills under ice?)
Canada’s offshore regulatory structure is a disaster waiting to happen. Run by unelected, oil friendly provincial offshore boards, there are five different jurisdictional boundaries in our gulf, a single moving body of water. Trouble is, fish don’t recognize provincial boundaries; they swim though them. These boards allow the oil companies to monitor their own environmental requirements. Last fall, the Canada Newfoundland Board allowed seismic to proceed while endangered blue whale were migrating.
After the BP spill last year, I couldn’t sleep for a week. I felt a connection with people all over the world who were grieving, as I was, over how shamefully we have protected the essentials of life – air, water, soil and food – for those to come. For 50 years, our oceans have been one big dumping ground of industrial effluent globally. Our oceans are more acidic now. We are disrupting the fragile ecological balance between our oceans and atmosphere that create the oxygen levels that sustain life on earth. The BP spill didn’t help. Nor is the nuclear fallout in the Japan Sea.
Is it worth risking multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries in Acadian, Gaelic, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet coastal communities, who have historic precedence in these waters that have sustained us for centuries?
Do we want the Gulf of St. Lawrence to become the next Gulf of Mexico?
Please, email Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent at email@example.com and demand a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. The endangered blue whale will thank you. So will your grandchildren.
Mary Gorman of Merigomish, N.S., is a writer and unwaged activist, and co-founder of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.
By Irene Novaczek
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition
A small group of Prince Edward Islanders, ventured to the Magdalene Islands to join other concerned citizens at a forum to explore the costs and benefits of drilling a deep oil well, in the area dubbed “Old Harry”, in the Laurentian Trench between the Maggies and western Nfld. Corridor Resources owns the exploration permit and they want to proceed through a screening level environmental assessment and drill as soon as possible (2012 – 2014). After hearing of the risks and meager to non-existent benefits for rural coastal communities who will be affected by the pollution that accompanies such activities, the forum participants called for the full panel review of the project, as well as a strategic environmental assessment to consider the wider implications. However, even before going this route it is clear to many of us that the existing framework for decision-making is gravely flawed. Therefore, we first need a moratorium on all further exploration in the gulf, to give time for research, reflection and extensive public consultation leading to the reform of the petroleum board and environmental assessment systems.
[Check out the link to the forum to view various presentations given by scientists, oil industry etc.]
Small boat harbour, Magdalene Islands (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Heading into the village of Old Harry – the nearest Magdalene landfall to the proposed oil field. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Old Harry Beach (Credit: Irene Novaczek)
View from the youth hostel (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Supporters arriving to demonstrate outside forum. Nice and noisy! (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Random notes to self (Credit: Irene Novaczek)
Lots of media covering the event, including independent media. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Line-ups at the mike clearly showed the depth of concern and by times, anger and disgust in the room. Here are folk lined up for the 10 minute question period with Corridor, after listening politely to their 50 minutes of “how to drill an oil well”, promises and reassurances… Perhaps one third of those who immediately sprang to the mike managed to get a question answered. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Fishing coop (Credit: Irene Novaczek)
From the perspective of bureaucrats in St Johns and Ottawa, our inshore fleets look mighty small and insignificant. But they are in fact the basis for coastal cultures, regional cuisines and tourism, among other values. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Marilyn Clark was born in Old Harry. The only reason anyone outside of Nfld now knows about plans to drill in the Gulf is that she’s a student at Memorial and her eye was drawn to the press release about the project because they used the name of her village as the name of the oil field. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Crab pots – lots of crab in the Old harry prospect area (Credit: Irene Novaczek)