Migration of Endangered Blue Whale Threatened: Environmental Groups call on Newfoundland and Canada not to Approve Seismic Blasting

Press Release from Ecology Action Centre, CPAWS-NL and Sierra Club Atlantic
September 13, 2010

As a growing number of individuals and organizations call for a moratorium on testing and drilling for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Atlantic Canadian environmental groups are calling on the Newfoundland and Canadian governments not to allow an imminent seismic blasting survey.

Plans are underway to proceed with seismic blasting off Western Newfoundland in the habitat of the endangered blue whale and other sensitive species.  An application from Corridor Resources to conduct a geohazard survey is currently before the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.

“Seismic surveys have negative impacts on marine life, but more crucial in this case, is that they are an early step in the oil and gas development cycle.  As more and more organizations say no to oil and gas in the Gulf or raise concerns, we respectfully ask that the Government of Newfoundland not issue the requested permit to Corridor Resources,” says Mark Butler of Nova Scotia’s Ecology Action Centre.

“Important environmental, legal and jurisdictional issues are triggered by the proposed impacts and location of the blasting, so we’re also asking the federal government to get off the side-lines and protect our Gulf”, Butler added.

A seismic survey involves the blasting of very loud sounds toward the ocean floor with the reflected signal providing oil companies with a picture of the geology up to several kilometers below the ocean floor. The problem is that between the seismic vessel and the ocean floor lies a lot of water which is home to fish, mammals and turtles all of which are extremely sensitive to sound.

“We share the concerns raised by DFO in their response to the Corridor environmental assessment about the impact of the survey on the endangered blue whale” says Julie Huntington of the Newfoundland Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “The seismic survey will be taking place in the migration corridor of the blue whales as they leave the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the fall and has the potential to disrupt their migration and distress the whales.”

The blue whales that enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence spend most of their time feeding along the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in areas like the Gaspe Peninsula. These are Quebec waters. When the whales leave the Gulf in the fall they pass through Newfoundland and Nova Scotia waters on their way back to the Atlantic Ocean.  Thus oil and gas activity in Newfoundland waters could have consequences for other provinces.

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a national treasure. The provinces surrounding the Gulf should be working together to conserve its natural diversity and beauty–all provinces, the federal government and First Nations should be involved in decisions that could affect shared marine resources”, comments Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Seismic blasting can also have impacts on marine invertebrates and fish. The fishing industry in Quebec and Newfoundland has raised concerns about the impact of the Corridor survey on redfish, cod, lobster and snow crab.

Canadians watched with horror as millions of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and the entire machinery of the oil industry and United States government tried repeatedly but failed to stop the flow.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is 6 times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico. The area where the oil company wants to drill is 400 to 500 metres deep – depths that present many of the same challenges facing emergency responders in the Gulf. This would make it a deepwater well and hence the risks of drilling and the probability of catastrophic spill increase.If the Gulf of Mexico spill is superimposed on the Gulf of St. Lawrence the spill, depending on where it is placed, extends to all five provinces. -30- For more information contact: Mark Butler-Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre Julie Huntington, CPAWS- NL

Gretchen Fitzgerald -Director, Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club of Canada