Complex issues, complex solutions
No matter which way you fall on the issue, Placentia Bay is a unique place that deserves unique consideration. If various government departments like Transport Canada, Environment and Fisheries and Oceans are to be believed, they are listening to the concerns of the stakeholders of Placentia Bay and are cognizant of the possibility of an ecological and economic disaster in the event of a large-scale oil spill in the bay, and are working to prevent such a disaster from occurring.
According to one report, Placentia Bay faces the greatest risk of an oil spill in North America, a risk that is, we hope, being taken seriously.
While government likes to think it has all the bases covered, it invariably may not. That’s what concerns people and business owners in the area so much about the issue and why they brought those concerns to an Apr. 16 meeting in Placentia.
Those who attended early were treated by the town of Placentia to a screening of a film called ‘Black Water’, which tells the story of the town of Valdez and the continuing economic and ecological ruin faced by the area after the tanker ‘Exxon Valdez’ spilled some 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound after the ship struck a reef Mar. 24, 1989, some 20 years ago.
It is quite possible the concerns of stakeholders in Placentia Bay were brought to life by this dramatic and unbelievable film, although one has to realize it did happen and certainly could again.
While there are differences between Prince William Sound and Placentia Bay – it is in the United States, which has different rules, regulations and priorities than Canada, and it was 20 years ago so many improvements have likely occurred – there is a possibility, no matter how slight, that something similar could happen to our shores.
While the risks may be lessened with all the advances that 20 year stretch has brought, and Canada, so far, has a very good record when it comes to oil spills, it does not help the situation when government is seen to be slow in responding to concerns of the very people who work and live in the bay in question.
That is one of the things that happened in Valdez and those people in that area are still dealing with the consequences of broken promises, court delays, red tape and bureaucratic nonsense.
The area’s wildlife has faced outright decimation of some species – the herring never returned – and oil still lingers on the beaches along Prince William Sound, and no one knows for how long.
Our government must do everything in its power to dramatically reduce the possibility of a large- scale oil spill in Placentia Bay, and that means taking the concerns and suggestions of the local population seriously.
Placentia Bay is a rare bay with a large number of competing interests, from seabirds to fishermen, aquaculture to tourism, oil and gas to difficult weather. It is a complex ecosystem and needs its own complex response from government.
There can be no cookie cutter solution to the potential problem we face. Elizabeth MacDonald, Editor