Canada must say no
All Marine Protected Areas must be off limits to oil and gas exploration activity
Thank you for your recent editorial regarding oil industry development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As you stated, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced last month that 80 per cent of a new so-called marine protected area (MPA) would be open to oil and gas development. The area in question is the Laurentian Channel, the southeast entryway to the Gulf of St. Lawrence – and a key feeding and migratory pathway for whales - including the mighty right whale - and the endangered leatherback turtle.
After years of consultations, the process for designating the Laurentian Channel MPA as protected is working its way through the parliamentary system: the proposed rules and boundaries have been published in the Canada Gazette at :https://www.canada.ca/en/fisheries-oceansnews/2017/06/ laurentian_channelproposedmarineprotectedarea.html.
It’s clear from what’s laid out there that the lobbying from the oil and gas industry has made its mark: only two small patches of the area will truly be protected. The rest will be open to oil and gas.
The region is very important to skates and sharks, too. The area is one of the only known mating grounds for porbeagle sharks, a species designated endangered by the COSEWIC, and habitat for basking sharks, high numbers of smooth skates, and black dogfish. It’s home to high densities and diversity of deep-sea corals, including high concentrations of a fragile type of coral known as a sea pen.
The response from Sierra Club and other public interest groups has been rapid and unanimous: no oil and gas in our marine protected areas. Meanwhile, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Vice President Paul Barnes, was quick to comment, “that the whole area still holds some promise” for oil and gas.
The announcement calls into question the government’s commitment to truly protecting 5 per cent of our oceans and coastal areas this year, and 10 per cent by 2020. It came on the heels of a new study demonstrating the devastating impacts of seismic airguns (which are used in oil exploration) on marine plankton, which are the basis of the marine food web.
In the lazy days of summer, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans probably did not expect the push back he received to his announcement. But now he seems to be listening. Our members and supporters have sent Minister LeBlanc and other leaders thousands of letters saying they don’t want oil and gas in marine protected areas.
Now the Minister needs to make changes in response to this overwhelming concern. We’ll be watching to see what the final version of the regulations look like. This area deserves full protection. And Canadians deserve to know that our commitment to protect key ocean and coastal seascapes will not be swayed by the lobbying of the oil and gas industry.
We urge your readers to go to our action page on www.sierraclub.ca/en/Saddest-news or write directly to Fisheries Minister LeBlanc, to tell him you want all of the Laurentian Channel – and all MPAs – to be off-limits to oil and gas.
Tony Reddin is a volunteer member of Atlantic Chapter Sierra Club Canada Foundation Executive Committee. The Foundation is part of a coalition of groups currently going to court to challenge the Newfoundland government on development activity in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In a fight to save the endangered right whale, its habitat in the Gulf, and the marine chain of life it relies upon, the group is challenging a drilling licence in the Gulf given to Corridor Resources.