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Beyond Shell and BP: 9 more offshore exploration leases now up for grabs

Action group's open letter demands retraction of 4 fishery banks-straddling leases

by John Davis on behalf of Clean Ocean Action Committee

Exploration parcels 1 - 4 straddle Georges and Browns Bank, areas that are key to Nova Scotia's vibrant fisheries [Photo: CNSOPB]
Exploration parcels 1 - 4 straddle Georges and Browns Bank, areas that are key to Nova Scotia's vibrant fisheries [Photo: CNSOPB]

An open letter to the Canada - Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, demanding the immediate withdrawal of offshore lease sites 1, 2, 3 and 4

In 1988 the people of Nova Scotia, through their representatives at Province House, voted to protect the Nova Scotia fishery and to support a moratorium on Georges Bank. They knew that the bank was one of the world’s richest spawning grounds and nursery sites and that spawn from Georges populates many of our other import fishing grounds. They also knew that the unique attributes that made Georges Bank such an important economic generator also made it highly susceptible to hydrocarbon pollution.

In that 1988 vote, the people of this province made the conscious decision to forgo the short term potential of royalties that might have been generated by the discovery of oil and gas and instead they chose to invest in the long term, economically sustainable, commercial fishery which had been supporting Nova Scotian communities for centuries. This action has proven to be both a wise choice and an excellent investment.

The fishing community of the Scotian Shelf has fully responded to the faith and trust placed in it by that province-wide vote nearly 30 years ago. We have sustainably utilized all commercial species and fully intend to continue the careful stewardship of this incredibly important resource into the future. It is only through the implementation of stringent regulations and careful harvesting practices that this multi-species fishery on the Scotian Shelf has flourished.

The Shelf now generates well in excess of a billion dollars per year in export value, makes a substantial annual contribution to the provincial GDP, provides thousands of jobs, upholds a proud Nova Scotian heritage, and sustains scores of Nova Scotian communities. The decision to support the Scotian Shelf fishery over twenty seven years ago continues to pay massive dividends, and therefore protecting the Scotian Shelf fishery should continue to be a key provincial priority.

Recently, in addition to the existing Shell and BP leases, the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has decided to place 9 new oil and gas exploration sites up for bid. These sites are located on or near every important fishing bank on the Scotian Shelf.

We, the members of the “Clean Ocean Action Committee”, representing the inshore fishery on the Scotian Shelf are evaluating each of these sites but it is immediately clear that no oil and gas exploration activity can be allowed to take place on sites 1, 2, 3 and 4, under the current regulatory framework.

Using the existing Shell regulatory approvals as a guide, we see that there are no requirements to clean up any sizable offshore oil spill, that there are no requirements to have emergency equipment such as a capping stack immediately available, and that the use of the noxious chemical dispersant “Corexit” is allowed and encouraged.

Lease sites 3 and 4 are directly impacted by the massive northwesterly tidal flow of the Bay of Fundy. 160 billion tones of water flow into and out of the Bay of Fundy twice a day. Sites 1 and 2 are also impacted this massive tidal flow. Sites 1 and 3 share a border with the moratorium area on Georges Bank. Drilling could take place within meters of the circular gyre which provides vertical mixing in the water column and holds nutrients on the moratorium site. Lease Site number 3 takes in the southern edge of Browns Bank. Browns Bank is so critically important as a female lobster sanctuary area that it is permanently closed to all lobster fishing. Browns Bank also contains two large scallop nursery areas which are permanently closed to that fishery. Scotian Shelf scallop landings are at their highest levels. For the year 2013 to 2014, ninety five million lbs. of lobster were landed in areas 33 to 40. Browns Bank also supports an extremely import haddock fishery. This area is critically important to the continuation of a highly productive sustainable fishery. Twice a day the flood tides of the Bay of Fundy flow over this bank to the northwest directly from lease site 3. Is there really any justification for putting these essential areas at risk? We do not believe that there is.

Allowing oil exploration on lease sites 1, 2, 3 and 4 with no requirement for the lease holder to clean up any sizable oil spill, with no capping stack immediately available near high temperature, high pressure, exploratory wells, and allowing the use of “Corexit” in a tidal flow area directly contingent to two critically important closed nursery areas and the Georges Bank moratorium site is totally unacceptable. It cannot occur. Recent scientific research on the effects of dispersants once mixed with spilled oil in an ocean environment strongly points to the dangerous effects on entire ecosystems that sustain fishing industries.

The Clean Ocean Action Committee is on record stating our immense concerns about the regulatory oversight now in effect for oil and gas exploration on the Scotian Shelf. Our list of simple and straight forward demands for change is publically available.

Today, we call upon the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to immediately withdraw sites 1, 2, 3 and 4 from consideration until proper regulations are in place which can ensure that spilled oil will be cleaned up and that no noxious chemical dispersants can be used in and near these critically important spawning and nursery and fishing grounds.

Most Sincerely

John Davis, Director

Clean Ocean Action Committee

Clean Ocean Action Committee is:

Member Executive Representative

  1. Cold Water Lobster Association Bernie Berry

  2. Maritime Fishermen’s Union, Local 9 Graeme Gawn

  3. Maritime Fishermen’s Union, Local 6 K. Squires

  4. Maritime Fishermen’s Union, Local 4 Gordon Beaton

  5. Lobstermen’s Organization, area 33 Pat Gray

  6. Lobstermen’s Organization, Area 34 Ashton Spinny

  7. Shelburne County Quota Group Eric Holmes

  8. Scotia Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association Judith Maxwell

  9. Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association Nathan Blades


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