Threats to Fishery Jobs – PEI Fishermen’s Association letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

In August 2010, the PEI Fishermen’s Association raised their voices and advised the feds “to cease any and all drilling and exploration activities in the Laurentian Channel as well as the rest of the Gulf of St. Lawrence… [and] is also requesting a complete moratorium of any such future activity.”

In the words of Michael McGeoghegan, President of the PEI Fishermen’s Association, in his letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, August 6, 2010:

In light of the events in the Gulf of Mexico, serious preventative action needs to be taken in order to avert a similar occurrence in the ecologically sensitive Gulf of St. Lawrence. The economic stability of Atlantic Canada is dependent on the fishery, and the fishery would be decimated if a similar disaster were to happen in this region.

Gulf of Mexico seafood industry nervous

Deformities originally found on shrimp and lobsters have eased up, but not on crabs. According to Darryl Felder, a University of Louisiana biologist, “People are bringing in (crabs) that are really messed up. The crab catches are really down and what they’re getting have big lesions on them – lesions and fungal or bacterial infections.”

“The fishing’s pretty good,” said Bob Spaeth, Southern Offshore Fisheries Association president. “But our biggest concern is the future. We’re worried about egg-bearing because of chemically altered genetics of some of the fish. We aren’t sure what the larvae are going to turn out like.” He’s particularly worried about what will happen four to five years from now, when a generation of fish of certain sizes might turn out to be missing due to oil-related diseases. “if we lose two or three years of sizes then the fisheries will collapse and we’ll have to shut down,” Spaeth said. “And that would affect all fisheries, both commercial and recreational.”

Read the whole article from April 16 – 2013

Related article here.

Shrimp catch rates down in Newfoundland after seismic surveys – FFAW

FFAW objects to seismic work in shrimp grounds June 08, 2012

The Telegram

Food Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union president Earle McCurdy
Credit: The Telegram

The Food Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union president Earle McCurdy wants seismic prospecting company MIK’s prospecting permit revoked for interfering with the fishery.

Seismic prospectors must provide their travel schedule beforehand, and must avoid interfering with commercial fishing operations, according to Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) regulations.

McCurdy states the company conducted seismic surveys on fishing grounds in violation of the schedule they were supposed to follow.

“We’ve had enough of it,” McCurdy said. “This is the second year in a row that seismic companies have interfered with our fishery.”.

FFAW has received complaints from shrimp boat captains that catch rates have dropped following seismic activity in the area.

Last year, FFAW received the same complaints.

While fishermen are stating the seismic work is affecting catch rates, a study by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans found seismic activity didn’t impact crab or whale populations. (

McCurdy has requested a meeting with the CNLOPB, MIK, provincial department of fisheries and other groups to discuss the matter.

The CNLOPB issued a statement saying it is following up in response to a report of possible seismic survey interference with fishing activity.The CNLOPB will attend a meeting of stakeholders next week as part of this follow-up.

Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall explains “Netukulimk”

Netukulimk is a Mi’kmaq word that, according to Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall, encompasses the concept of sustainability. He explains the essence and spirit of Netukulimk in this short video.

Albert Marshall is an Elder Advisor to the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and has been a member of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition for many years.

CNLOPB accepts commissioner’s criticism (The Telegram)

February 6, 2013 Ashley Fitzpatrick

The Telegram

Offshore regulator grilled over oil spill preparedness

The former chair and outgoing CEO of the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) says a federal report criticizing the board on oil spill response preparedness is “fair and accurate.”

Released Tuesday, the latest report from Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan states the CNLOPB is not ready to take over response to a major oil spill offshore if an oil company fails to respond as required.

The CNLOPB — along with the Canada–Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) — needs to clarify, step-by-step, the responsibilities and roles of federal responders in the case of a major spill, it states.

“In my view, the boards and their federal partners are not adequately prepared and, although the probability of a major spill in the Atlantic offshore area is relatively low, they need to do more to prepare for one,” wrote Vaughan, whose staff conducted an audit of the board’s operations in 2012.

He made note of the Macondo (Deepwater Horizon) incident in 2010, when 11 lives were lost and an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The cost of the Macondo blowout has been estimated at US$40 billion.

“That incident demonstrated starkly the absolute importance of being ready to respond to a spill of that magnitude and the need for strong regulatory oversight to help prevent environmental disasters,” he stated.

He highlighted shortcomings in the local response plan, saying the CNLOPB needs to deal with co-ordination and control issues. Specifically, he pointed to out-of-date and missing agreements between the board and supporting federal entities.

However, the commissioner stated the board has some good practices in place.

The CNLOPB’s acting CEO, Max Ruelokke, said the board has accepted the report’s recommendations for improvement.

“Can we improve the way we do business? Sure. That’s why we welcome the audit,” he said.

Disputed point

The commissioner’s report notes the board began a review of oil company spill response capabilities in 2008 and has yet to complete the task. He recommended it be finished right away. In the CNLOPB’s formal response, the board states the review will be completed by March 31.

Yet, when speaking with The Telegram, both Ruelokke and a spokesman for the board said the review was more of an ongoing process and the document compiling response plans was constantly being updated.

Regardless of concerns, Ruelokke said, emergency response plans have been reviewed for all producing oil projects. In addition, plans are reviewed for any new wells being drilled.

“From an industry perspective, we are definitely ready in the event of an oil spill because the industry has world-class oil spill prevention and response plans in place,” said Paul Barnes, a spokesman with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Atlantic Canada.

Barnes said, at this point, the oil companies are reviewing the report and waiting to see how government will respond.

Meanwhile, provincial NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said the findings of the audit reinforce her belief in the need for an offshore regulator, separate from the CNLOPB, to deal with issues of safety and the environment.

That regulator would be able to put some pressure on the board and government to get new laws and operational plans in place in a timely fashion when needed, she said.

It would also providing third-party monitoring. Dedicated safety and environment departments within the CNLOPB are just not cutting it, Michael said.

“We have to hold the CNLOPB responsible for making sure that everything is in place. … Their role in monitoring is who they are as a regulator and they have a major responsibility in that role — that plans are in place, they know exactly who is responsible every step along the way (and) that the people responsible are identified in those plans.”

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball referenced the review of oil company response plans started in 2008.

“To me that shows, once again, government is not holding these boards or these operators accountable,” he said.

He said any major disaster offshore would have the potential to cripple the provincial economy.

“We have a significant stake in this,” Ball said of the CNLOPB’s watchdog role in relation to response plans.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Natural Resources, Tom Marshall, said he has seen the federal report and it will be reviewed in detail.

“It’s always good to have oversight and there’s always opportunities to strengthen our practices and to make improvements and manage our risk in the offshore better,” he said.

The Nova Scotia board, meanwhile, is distancing itself from the federal commissioner’s criticisms around oil spill response preparedness.

In a statement, the board said the report talks specifically about oil spills and not disasters involving natural gas.

“At present, production offshore Nova Scotia is natural gas, with exploratory drilling that may encounter oil not expected until 2015,” reads the statement.

The look at the CNLOPB and the CNSOPB’s emergency response capabilities and oversight was only one part of the environment commissioner’s latest report.

The full report is available online, through the webpage of the Office of the Federal Auditor General.

Fish deformities linked to oil pollution in U.S. and Alberta (CBC)

Alberta scientist calls for research on fish malformations in Lower Athabasca River Max Paris, Environment Unit, CBC News

Apr 3, 2013

A renowned Alberta water scientist is urging the federal government to take action after he discovered deformities in fish in the Athabasca River downriver from oil sands developments bear a striking resemblance to ones found in fish after spills in U.S. waters.

University of Alberta ecologist Dr. David Schindler said the only way to know for sure which petrochemicals — and in what concentrations — cause the deformities is to conduct whole ecosystem experiments at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Northern Ontario.

“I propose that the ELA site and laboratory should be kept open to conduct these important experiments, which have implications for future effects of oil extraction and transport in or near both marine and freshwater ecosystems,” Schindler wrote in a letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent and Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.

The ELA was shuttered on March 31 after its funding was cut in last year’s budget. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says it is in negotiations with other parties to take over the operation of the one-of-a-kind facility. The government will save $2-million a year by off-loading the outdoor laboratory made up of 58 small pristine lakes.

Schindler cited a number of studies that looked into the effects of oil and chemical contamination on fish after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in the lower Athabasca River. He included photos of fish from the Athabasca with two tails, bulging eyeballs and gaping sores.

A Walleye with an enlarged eye caught near Ft. McKay, Alberta, on the Athabasca River in 2010. (David Schindler/University of Alberta)

“In both the Gulf of Mexico and the Athabasca River, the high incidence of malformations and the grotesque appearance of some of the fish make consumers reluctant to eat them,” wrote Schindler. He added that was a threat to the Gulf of Mexico’s commercial fishery and the Athabasca’s subsistence fishery.

Schindler’s “eureka moment” came last week when he was forwarded an article about a study done on fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I was really struck with how similar some of those malformations were. And of course, they’d come on in only a little over a year since that Gulf spill,” Schindler told the CBC.

The timing of the letter is hard to ignore. It comes hard on the heels of the ELA’s closure with a September 1 deadline looming for Ottawa to find a new operator or return the property to the province of Ontario. Schindler is a vocal member of the advocacy group “Save ELA.”

Asked if this was just a ploy to keep the facility open, Schindler responded: “That’s exactly what they said when I proposed that acid rain was a problem in 1974.”

Research from the ELA was instrumental in helping Canada and the U.S. negotiate, draft and sign the Acid Rain Treaty of 1991.

For Ottawa’s part, Environment Canada insisted it is taking its responsibilities around the oil sands seriously.

“Our government launched a comprehensive oil sands monitoring plan that enhances the monitoring of water, air, land and biodiversity,” Kent spokesperson Rob Taylor wrote to the CBC.

DFO said it is happy with the freshwater science being done at other facilities across the country.

“On the Experimental Lakes Area, the government continues to actively work towards establishing a new operator for the ELA site so that research there can continue,” wrote Ashfield spokesperson Erin Filliter.

Schindler is glad to hear that.

“Frankly, I would like to see the Experimental Lakes Area funded independently of DFO. It’s always been a Cinderella project and for 30 years DFO has been a very bad stepmother.”

May calls for drilling ban in Gulf of St. Lawrence (CBC)

May calls for drilling ban in Gulf of St. Lawrence

CBC News
Aug 1, 2012

The Green Party of Canada is calling for a moratorium on exploration and drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the face of a proposed deep-water oil well.

Corridor Resources Inc. is looking for approval from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to drill a well east of Prince Edward Island by 2015.

At a news conference in Halifax Wednesday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the prime minister is reducing environmental protection in Canada to make it easier for companies to drill in areas teeming with fish and whales.

“Stephen Harper, he’s taken a position on the Gulf of St. Lawrence – it’s open season for oil and gas,” she said.

Phil Knoll, president of Corridor Resources Inc., responded to May’s call for a moratorium.

“I can tell you we certainly don’t agree with it. We believe and we think it’s well documented that the industry can conduct seismic and exploration projects very safely.”

Tom Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Dalhousie University, said he attended May’s event to express concerns about laying off scientists who could have weighed in on the drilling debate.

“Key groups at Environment Canada (and the) Department of Fisheries and Oceans that monitor the impacts of oil and gas development have been dismantled. With this in mind, I think that a moratorium is prudent.”

A decision on whether Corridor Resources can drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is expected in July 2013.

Shell seismic survey could affect bluefin tuna (Chronicle Herald)

Ottawa: Shell survey could affect bluefin tuna March 8, 2013 Chronicle Herald

By Joann Alberstat

Shell Canada’s proposed seismic survey could have an impact on the migration patterns of bluefin tuna off the coast of Nova Scotia, the federal Fisheries Department says.

A department official has told the industry regulator that the global energy giant should have a more detailed plan to avoid interfering with migrating tuna, or the midshore fishery, on the Scotian Shelf.

“New information on bluefin tuna migrations indicate that they travel along the shelf edge during the same time as the proposed seismic activity,” Donald Humphrey said Wednesday in an email to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

Humphrey, with the habitat management division, also said department staff have heard from several area fisherman who have asked Shell for more information about the seismic program but have not had a response.

“I would like to emphasize the importance of engaging these stakeholders,” the filing says.

Calgary-based Shell, a subsidiary of the Dutch oil and gas company, plans to start a 3-D seismic survey program of six deepwater blocks. The parcels are located about 350 kilometres south of Halifax.

Shell wants to explore almost 12,200 square kilometres of an area known as the Shelburne Basin.

The wide-azimuth surveys, part of a $1-billion exploration program planned over six years, will help the company examine the basin for potential drilling sites.

The survey program will run from April to September, with more work scheduled during the same time frame in 2014.

The 3-D surveys involve several vessels towing air-gun source arrays, with the two outer vessels also towing streamers.

While DFO has raised concerns about bluefin tuna, an Eastern Shore fisherman said Friday he’s concerned about the possible impact the survey could have on the snow crab fishery.

Peter Connors said scientific studies about the potential impact of seismic work on fish species have been inconclusive.

“The scientists aren’t prepared to say that it does cause any harm. It may or may not. We really don’t know,” the Sober Island fisherman said.

Connors, who is president of the Eastern Shore Fishermen’s Protective Association, also fishes lobster and halibut, which is another species found in the deepwater area that Shell wants to be explore.

Because the survey work would take several months, fishermen are also talking to Shell about minimizing the seismic program’s impact on various fisheries, he said.

A spokesman for aboriginal fishermen in Truro said the seismic work would also be done in an area that has swordfishing.

“They are aware of the longliners and are addressing that issue,” Roger Hunka, director of the Maritime Aboriginal Aquatic Resources Secretariat, said of the dialogue swordfisherman are having with Shell.

A Shell spokesman said the company has consulted with fisheries representatives and will continue to do so.

“We have made efforts to provide project information regularly and respond to any questions or concerns,” Stephen Doolan said in an email.

The board said earlier this week that it takes all stakeholder comments into account in deciding on the survey plan.

Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat statement re: Oil and Gas in Gespe’gewa’gi

Oil and Gas: Gespe’gewa’gi
Information Bulletin

For Immediate Release:

Feb. 15, 2013, Gespe’gewagi – Oil & Gas exploration in Gespe’gewa’gi is quickly becoming an important topic as news spreads of large oil deposits and an apparent race by Québec and junior oil exploration companies to attract outside investors. To provide clarification on how the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat is involved in issues related to Oil & Gas, we offer the following information:

At this time, the MMS does not have a mandate from the communities to pursue issues related to Oil and Gas development on Gespe’gewa’gi. There are no discussions between oil & gas exploration companies and MMS to pursue any development. The MMS is not facilitating oil exploration, or encouraging any company to drill in Gespe’gewa’gi.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) continues to fail in its obligation to consult with the Mi’gmaq. There continues to be no attempts by Quebec to seek consultation on potential oil & gas leases or permits.

The MMS will be meeting with the Mi’gmaq Tri-council (Chief and Councillors from Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Listuguj) in the spring of 2013 to table a ‘Draft Energy Policy’. The MMS will be seeking direction from the Leadership on how to ensure the interests of the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq are realized and our rights and environment are protected.

It is clear to the Leadership that at this time, offshore oil exploration in the Gulf cannot be done in a safe manner.  With the current exploration technology we understand that risks are very high and have the potential to cause irreparable damage to our lands and waters and most importantly; our salmon.

The Leadership of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi put forward a demand for a moratorium on the exploration and exploitation of Oil & Gas in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Further to that, the MM leadership joined forces with the St. Lawrence Coalition to pressure the government to put a permanent moratorium on Oil and Gas development in the Gulf.

With the help of biologists and other environmental monitoring experts, we are conducting studies on the effects of fracking to water and land. The MMS is working to provide relevant information so that the Leadership of the 3 Mi’gmaq communities are well informed on all the environmental, social and economic impacts of oil & gas exploration. It is always our preoccupation to work to provide this information to aide the leadership to make informed decisions. The protection of the environment remains as the paramount objective.

Source: • Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat  • 2 Riverside West,  P.O. Box 135 • Listuguj,   Gespe’gewa’gi,  Qc.    G0C 2R0 • Tel: (418) 788-1760  • Toll Free 1 (800) 370-1760  • Fax: (418) 788-1315

• E-mail:

Island groups react to report on offshore drilling preparedness (Journal Pioneer)

The PEI Watershed Alliance is a member of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition’s PEI chapter. The story below appeared on the front page of the Journal Pioneer.

Island groups react to report on offshore drilling preparedness February 7, 2013 Journal Pioneer

Eric McCarthy

ALBERTON — An Auditor General’s report released this week on the Environment and Sustainable Development adds to the concerns the Prince Edward Island Watershed Alliance held all along about offshore oil drilling activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, said Shawn Hill, the group’s executive director.

“It basically underpins our case entirely,” Hill said of the report. Last month the Watershed Alliance forwarded a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlining its concerns about oil and gas exploration in the Gulf. “Our province is dependent on marine resources that will be – perhaps irreversibly – compromised by the demonstrated, accidental outcomes of intrinsically dangerous, offshore petroleum development,” the Alliance stressed in its letter to the Prime Minister.

The report raises several concerns about the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board’s preparedness for monitoring offshore activity and in its ability to manage and deal with mishaps.

One of the report’s glaring findings is that financial liability for oil companies is capped at $30 million. By comparison, damages from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have been estimated in the $40 billion range, 333 times as much.

“We are really concerned,” Hill commented. “There hasn’t been a lot of work in the Gulf and, with the way the energy file is going across the country and the way the legislative framework has been altered with federal changes, we were just wondering what could happen.“

Although most of the discussion on offshore drilling is between Newfoundland and Quebec, Hill said the impacts of anything going wrong would be far-reaching. “All Islanders, and everybody in the Maritimes, have a lot of exposure on this. It’s that simple,” he stressed. “The coastal resource, that’s key for our tourism, key for our fisheries, key for our livelihoods everywhere, and if that is impacted, what’s left? That’s the precautionary principal.”

The managing director of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, Ian MacPherson said his organization has many concerns and feels the best approach would be for no offshore drilling to occur at all.“Certainly, any type of spill would have devastating results for the whole Gulf region, just the way the currents go,” MacPherson stated. He pointed out the St. Lawrence has a very slow flushing rate, as it takes an entire year for water form the Gulf to empty out. That could mean the affects of an oil spill could linger a long time. There are also questions, he said, of what ice would do to a cleanup operation.

MacPherson added that the Gulf of St. Lawrence has greater biodiversity than the Gulf of Mexico. A spill, he said, would have a significant impact on the entire region.

The Auditor General report has raised red flags throughout the region.

The St. Lawrence Coalition is calling for a moratorium on exploration and exploitation of oil and gas across the Gulf and the federal New Democrats are concerned with what it calls a lack of both coordinate response plans and clarity on roles and responsibilities.