Moratorium on oil and gas development called

A recent proposal by an oil and gas exploration company to perform seismic testing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near the Cabot Strait, has provoked environmentalists and fishermen to call for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the area.

One hundred kilometres from St. George’s Bay, tucked just inside Newfoundland’s offshore boundaries, Halifax-based Corridor Resources is proposing to explore the Old Harry oil field, believed to contain up to 2 billion barrels of oil.

But eighty kilometres southwest of the site are the Magdalen Islands, whose economy relies heavily on fishing in the Gulf. The project is proposed for the fall of next year, but according to Ghislain Cyr of the Association of Pelagic and Groundfish Fishermen of the Magdalen Islands (RPPUM), the timing of the project is lousy.

“September, October, November is the best time for fishing for all species, like groundfish,” says Cyr. “That’s the time they are right there in the channel. And seismic blasts have been shown to disturb their migration patterns.”

His association is also concerned about the Atlantic cod which, they say, congregate near there at that time of year.

Cyr, along with the Magdalen Islands’ Association for Professional Fishermen (RPPIM), sent letters to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) highlighting their concerns and asked for more consultation with affected groups from the provinces in the region.

Corridor Resources met with the Magdalen fishermen, and stressed that the project would be using low-impact seismic activity, and the work would last for just over a week.

Nonplussed by the response, both the RPPUM and the RPPIM signed onto the moratorium, joining organizations like the PEI Fishermen’s Association, the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association and the David Suzuki Foundation.

“Maybe what they’re going to do is nothing, but it’s what might come after,” says Cyr. “We don’t want to see any drilling there. That’s the entrance to the Gulf for all the fish species. You cannot take a chance there.”

When contacted, the Fish Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW), representing Newfoundland fishermen, say they don’t plan to sign on to the moratorium request. They’re using a different approach to address their concerns, they say.

“No doubt about it, we do have concerns,” says David Decker, the FFAW’s Secretary-Treasurer, “but the position we’ve taken is to work with the oil and gas industries to work out those concerns. We believe we’ll make more progress that way.”

“We’ve been dealing with the oil and gas industry for a while here in Newfoundland, most dramatically off the Grand Banks, which is a rich fishing ground,” he adds. “It’s an important industry to the province and we understand that.”

The C-NLOPB is expected to make a decision about Corridor’s proposal soon, perhaps even sometime in early October.

One comment

  1. Sarah Smellie · July 14, 2011

    The project was approved. Here’s half of the news release. The entire release is available on the C-NLOPB website.

    “The C-NLOPB has approved an application by Corridor Resources Inc. to conduct a geohazard survey in the Maritimes Basin in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The geohazard survey, which includes a four-day low energy seismic survey, will take approximately six days to complete.

    The mitigative measures that Corridor must implement include, but are not limited to, gradual start of the seismic airgun array to discourage marine mammals from staying in the immediate area. Also, Corridor must ensure that the seismic airgun array is shut down if a marine mammal, or sea turtle listed as Endangered or Threatened pursuant to the Species at Risk Act, is observed in the safety zone.

    In consideration of concerns expressed by some members of the public concerning the Application, the Board is applying an additional level of regulatory oversight to the proposed program, beyond that typically applied to marine geohazard surveys. We have requested of the Fish, Food, and Allied Workers (FFAW) Union that its Fisheries
    Liaison Officer (FLO) aboard the survey vessel act on our behalf during the program in monitoring the proper implementation of mitigative measures applicable to the survey. The FLO has training as a Marine Mammal Observer and the FFAW will provide a report to us following conclusion of the survey.”