Halifax With a decision imminent on allowing or disallowing seismic testing in the coastal, near-shore waters around the Cape Breton Island coastline, a coalition of fishermen, environmental, tourism and First Nations interests have taken their message to the Canada-Nova Scotia Off-Shore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) and the public. In today's Chronicle Herald, a full-page advertisement has been placed by the Save our Seas and Shores Coalition calling for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in these biologically rich and diverse in-shore waters.
The "open letter" to the CNSOPB sets out the reasons for the considerable opposition to petroleum exploration in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sydney Bight. According to the "letter," oil and gas exploration "would not be allowed in most jurisdictions in North America. Florida, for instance, does not allow any new oil and gas development within 100 miles of shore and the Bush Administration is now buying back old leases within this zone. Near shore developments are not allowed along the whole US Eastern seaboard, or off California, British Columbia, most of Europe and Alaska." It also mentions that Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans testified in a recent public review that "this area is more sensitive and more diverse than Georges Bank - the rich fishing grounds off South West Nova Scotia." Georges Bank is currently protected by a moratorium.
"For the last three and a half years, fishermen from the three Maritime provinces have been fighting to protect one of Canada's richest fisheries," said Jeff Brownstein of the Maritime Fisherman's Union, one of the organizations signing the letter. "We cannot sit idly by and allow our livelihood and the environment to be threatened for a slim chance of local benefit."
"We are desperately hoping the petroleum board will recognize that this is clearly one of the most inappropriate areas in Canada for oil and gas," said Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada. "In reality, if regulators allow seismic testing in coastal Cape Breton, there will literally be no area in Canada's coastal waters that could be considered too sensitive."
A partial list of groups signing the ad includes the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, Sierra Club of Canada, Margaree Salmon Association, Area 18 and Area 19 Western Cape Breton Snow Crab Associations, Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation, World Wildlife Fund Canada, PEI Fisherman's Union, Council of Canadians, Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, Ecology Action Centre, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Po'tlo'tek Fish and Wildlife Association, and Whale Watch Captains Dennis Cox, Cyril Fraser, Fred Lawrence, Stanley McKinnon, Danny Robinson and Mark Timmons.