Greens, Coalition, and Scientists Demand Exploration Halt in Gulf

HALIFAX – The Green Party of Canada, the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, and two prominent scientists today called for an exploration and drilling moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – starting with seismic testing.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, Dr. Lindy Weilgart, Research Associate in Biology at Dalhousie University and an expert in seismic impacts on marine life, and Dr. Thomas Duck, Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University, also called on Canadians and regional provincial governments to join them in stopping the Harper Conservatives’ aggressive extraction agenda in the Gulf.

“We need as many concerned Canadians as possible and their provincial representatives to join us in our call for an exploration moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence" said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just spent the past few months pushing through his pro-oil budget and omnibus Bill C-38, and now he thinks nothing can stop him. We have to demonstrate that’s just not the case.”

The elimination of federal regulations for offshore development are likely to have dire consequences for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a highly sensitive ecosystem with over 2,000 marine species that spawn, nurse, and migrate year around, including lobster, herring, snow crab, mackerel, tuna, endangered blue and right whales, leatherback turtle, and harlequin ducks.

Environmental assessments for exploratory drilling, which can be as dangerous as production drilling, were eliminated in the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012) introduced in Bill C-38. It should be recognized that the largest oil spill in American history, the BP Macondo Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, was an exploratory well.

Environmental assessments of seismic blasting were also eliminated. “Marine mammals and fish are highly impacted by seismic surveys. Whales can strand and die, often bleeding from their eyes; dolphins can go rigid, catatonic, and drown, and the hearing cells in fish can be ripped apart. To carry out this destruction in as productive and biologically rich an area as the Gulf is madness,” Dr. Lindy Weilgart warned.

The Harper Conservatives are eliminating environmental regulations and protections to fast-track offshore drilling in spite of the fact that the Gulf provides a renewable global and regional food source, generating a thriving fishery – including Mi’kmaq and Acadian fishers – which, together with the tourism industry, is worth one billion dollars and creates approximately 50,000 related jobs. At the same time, the Harper Conservatives have not amended the current industry liability limit which now stands at 40 million – nothing compared to the billions BP has spent in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf has unique characteristics making exploration and extraction particularly risky. It is a partially landlocked, inland sea with strong, counter-clockwise, tidal currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year. There is no feasible way to clean up an oil spill because the Gulf is one of the windiest regions in North America. Due to the currents, one oil spill could damage five provincial coastlines (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Newfoundland).

“As coastal landowners, we feel betrayed and abandoned by our governments who are gambling recklessly with everything we have worked for our entire lives – our property values and net worth along with our Gulf’s pristine beauty, recreational pleasures and unique maritime culture,” stated Mary Gorman.

“I would like to formally welcome Prime Minister Harper to the 21st century and advise him that humans are not the only species on the planet. It is long past time to shuck off this anthropogenic attitude of superiority and mastery and learn a small lesson in humility. It is good for the soul. While the rest of the world is embracing change, our government is clinging to 20th century philosophies and business models. This may have been acceptable in the 1950s, but we have moved on. We urge the Canadian government to do the same,” said John Percy, Leader of the Nova Scotia Green Party.

This aggressive extraction agenda is taking place as the government’s ability to monitor negative impacts has been greatly weakened. Professor Thomas Duck highlighted the ongoing reduction of scientific capacity at Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"Sound policy is informed by science, yet the Harper Conservatives have dismantled much of our capacity to monitor the impact of fossil fuel exploration and development. The elimination of scientific assessments and oversight -- indeed, the whole of Harper's war on evidence -- puts the health and safety of Canadians and their environment at considerable risk.”

Contact Information:
Debra Eindiguer
c: 613.240.8921