Groups and First Nations in five provinces demand a stop to oil and gas activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; Oceans’ Week starts with call for Gulf-wide moratorium and arms-length review panel
Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, June 9, 2014 – Fishermen, environmentalists, First Nations, and others kicked off International Oceans’ Week with a demand to the federal, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick and Quebec governments to immediately place a moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and development in the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence. They followed up with a call for an independent Gulf-wide review panel with thorough public consultations on whether offshore oil and gas activities should ever be allowed to proceed in the Gulf.
“Since time immemorial, the waters and shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been used and occupied by the Innu to the north and the Mi'gmaq to the south, for purposes including fishing, hunting, and travel. Because of these facts, we have rights that are recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and that the federal and provincial governments are obliged to consult and accommodate us in order to avoid any irreparable harm to the exercise of our rights” declared Troy Jerome on behalf of the Innu-Mi'gmaq Alliance for the Protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Today, the St. Lawrence Coalition is publishing a report on the issue of oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which highlights the fact that the conditions are not in place to allow such activities in this precious and fragile ecosystem. Consequently, a Gulf-wide moratorium seems essential” added Jean-Patrick Toussaint from the St. Lawrence Coalition. “The Gulf is one of the last standing places on earth where no offshore oil/gas activities are underway. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to protect this beautiful ecosystem and try to restore its ecological integrity” concluded Toussaint.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence shores draw millions of visitors a year to the pristine beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park and that of the Magdalen Islands; the majestic vistas of Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail; iconic symbols like Rocher Percé in Gaspé, and the spectacular fjords of western Newfoundland. Fisheries like lobster, eel, and snow crab support thousands of families in all five provinces. Endangered blue whales, bluefin tuna, belugas, the remaining northern cod and many other valued species feed, spawn, mate, and rear young in the waters of the Gulf. All could be at risk from oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
“As recently reported in the May issue of National Geographic, the Gulf is still a bountiful, diverse ecosystem, teeming with life. It could remain so if only we took the time and effort to better understand its complexities, and see it as a whole instead of artificially dividing it into provincial jurisdictions” said Ellie Reddin from the PEI Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores. “The offshore oil industry already has access to 85% of Canada’s east coast waters. Enough is enough. We must declare a Gulf-wide moratorium on oil and gas activities" concluded Reddin.
“Marine resources have been under various pressures, such as industrial pollution, acidification, hypoxia and climate change over the past decades. Our fishing efforts have been greatly affected and we have been forced to adapt to this reality. Fishermen and fishing associations have made tremendous efforts to sustain this renewable resource and therefore we are saying no to opening the gulf to the oil/gas industry, which would undoubtedly add yet another pressure to this sensitive ecosystem” said Greg Egilsson, Chairman of the Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation.
The groups also insist that a review panel and thorough public consultations on this important issue be held across the five provinces to consult with the communities and First Nations about the future of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Every year, thousands of residents and visitors to the surrounding communities spend over one billion dollars on recreational and tourism activities focused on the natural and cultural heritage of the Gulf and its scenic shores. Are we willing to risk such national treasures for unproven revenues that aren’t sustainable? That is why it is of utmost importance to us that all communities around the Gulf be consulted on what is a stake here…their future” said John Jacobs from Nature Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We must keep in mind that the proposed oil exploration in the Gulf is not happening in a vacuum” commented Matthew Abbott, Marine Program Coordinator with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Canada’s Atlantic coastal waters already face significant stress from climate change, especially due to temperature increases and ocean acidification not to mention existing tanker traffic, offshore drilling in other areas, and a host of other threats. In order to foster resilient ecosystems and maintain critical habitats it is essential that relatively intact regions like the Gulf be left to flourish” concluded Abbott.
The groups are also calling into action communities and citizens from all around the Gulf Provinces and across Canada to ask the federal and provincial governments to establish a Gulf-wide moratorium on oil and gas activities, as well as an independent, arms-length review panel on this issue.
Download the St. Lawrence Coalition report at: http://bit.ly/1nT5eMT
This release was signed by the following groups:
- Conservation Council of New Brunswick – New Brunswick
- Ecology Action Centre – Nova Scotia
- Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation – Nova Scotia
- Innu-Mi'gmaq Alliance for the Protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
- Nature Newfoundland and Labrador – Newfoundland and Labrador
- Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition – Nova Scotia
- Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition – Prince Edwards Island Chapter
- Sierra Club Canada Foundation – Atlantic Chapter
- St. Lawrence Coalition – Quebec
Sources for media enquiries:
Sierra Club Canada Foundation – Atlantic Chapter
902.444.3113 (Office) / 902.444.7096 (cell)
Innu-Mi'gmaq Alliance for the Protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Jean-Patrick Toussaint, Ph.D.
Science Project Manager at the David Suzuki Foundation (Quebec)
Spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition (Prince-Edwards Island)
Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation
John D. Jacobs
Past President - Nature Newfoundland and Labrador
Conservation Council of New Brunswick