‘It seems like we are left be­hind’

Har­vester says re­cent record­break­ing oil and gas bid puts the fish­ery to the way­side

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KYLE GREENHAM

It’s a record-break­ing year for off­shore oil and gas ex­plo­ration in New­found­land and Labrador, but the prov­ince’s fish­ery is greet­ing the news with se­ri­ous con­cern.

When Gan­der-based har­vester Heather Starkes heard the news that $1.3 bil­lion was suc­cess­fully bid for new oil and gas ac­tiv­ity, and that two of these bids are within marine refuge ar­eas where fish­ing is re­stricted, she says it is a wor­ry­ing sign for the fish­ery.

“When you hear these things over the news and an­nounce­ments like this com­ing from gov­ern­ment, you see the fish­ery is cer­tainly not at the fore­front,” Starkes said. “It seems like we are left be­hind.”

Starkes has been fish­ing for over 39 years. She is chair of the shrimp com­mit­tee and a work­ing mem­ber for the tur­bot com­mit­tee in the 3K/3L fish­ing zone. Work­ing in these off­shore fish­eries, Starkes is disappointed that ar­eas off limit to her in­dus­try, in the name of con­ser­va­tion, are open to the oil and gas in­dus­try.

“These marine pro­tected ar­eas (MPA) are in place for a rea­son. If you can’t fish there any­more then why should they be able to go in and blast there for oil?” she said. “To me, there can’t be this dou­ble stan­dard. If there’s a rule, pol­icy or law in place, ev­ery­one should have to abide by it.”

The bids were awarded to the com­pa­nies BHP Bil­li­ton Petroleum, Equinor, Sun­cor En­ergy and Husky Oil. Their work will to­tal over one mil­lion hectares of off­shore ar­eas, in both the eastern New­found­land and Jeanne d’arc basin re­gions.

Rec­om­men­da­tions not taken

With the prospect of MPAs and other fish­ing grounds be­ing im­pacted by these new oil and gas bids, the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) Union also ex­pressed their up­set with the re­cent an­nounce­ment.

The union was disappointed that rec­om­men­da­tions pro­vided to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ear­lier this year for a stan­dard­ized ap­proach to these MPAs were not im­ple­mented.

In Septem­ber, the Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Panel on MPA Stan­dards re­leased its re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions to the min­is­ter of Fish­eries and Oceans and the Cana­dian Coast Guard. The re­port called for a pro­hi­bi­tion on oil and gas ex­plo­ration and ex­trac­tion in fed­eral MPAs, and that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment adopt in­ter­na­tional stan­dards for con­ser­va­tion to en­sure all in­dus­tries face the same re­stric­tions on said MPAs.

Ac­cord­ing to an emailed re­sponse from the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO), the gov­ern­ment is still as­sess­ing the panel’s rec­om­men­da­tions, and the re­cently an­nounced bids were not af­fected by their re­port.

“Oil, gas and seis­mic ac­tiv­ity is con­tin­u­ing com­pletely un­re­stricted in these sup­posed pro­tected ar­eas,” FFAW pres­i­dent Keith Sullivan said in a press re­lease. “This is un­der­stand­ably frus­trat­ing for har­vesters who have given up con­sid­er­able fish­ing grounds in the name of con­ser­va­tion.”

En­sur­ing con­ser­va­tion goals con­tinue

Scott Simms, MP for Coast of Bays-Cen­tral-Notre Dame Bay, says he un­der­stands the con­cerns be­ing voiced by the FFAW and har­vesters in his con­stituency, and that any oil and gas ex­plo­ration done in an MPA should first en­sure it will not in­ter­fere with con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

“If a marine pro­tected area is put in place to pro­tect tur­bot, then any oil and gas ex­plo­ration in that ar­eas needs to first prove, with a great deal of con­fi­dence, they will not af­fect that goal,” Simms said. “It’s my un­der­stand­ing that there are ways to do oil and gas ex­plo­ration that will not neg­a­tively af­fect marine pro­tected ar­eas or dam­age the over­all ecosys­tem. The onus should be on the com­pa­nies to show that any ac­tiv­ity in these ar­eas sat­is­fies the goals of the marine pro­tected area.”

Ear­lier this month, the off­shore rig SeaRose caused the largest oil spill in the prov­ince’s his­tory, with 250,000 litres of oil leak­ing into the ocean.

Simms ac­knowl­edged there are al­ways un­fore­see­able risks and the pos­si­bil­ity for ac­ci­dents like oil spills that can neg­a­tively im­pact the ecosys­tem, but that this alone should not pre­vent these oil and gas bids from go­ing ahead.

“Ac­ci­dents can hap­pen, but we can’t just or­der all oil and gas ex­plo­ration out of the ques­tion be­cause of that risk,” he said.

In an emailed re­sponse from the Canada-New­found­land Off­shore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), which an­nounced the bids ear­lier this month, the board stated that pro­tect­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally sig­nif­i­cant and sen­si­tive ar­eas is piv­otal to their work. Ac­cord­ing to the email, in off­shore oil ac­tiv­i­ties the CNLOPB is­sues project-spe­cific en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments, in ac­cor­dance with the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment At­lantic Ac­cord Im­ple­men­ta­tion Acts.

The C-NLOPB also stated they plan to con­tinue work­ing with the DFO, fish­ing in­ter­est groups and other agen­cies in sup­port of Canada’s marine con­ser­va­tion goals.

While the ex­act ex­tent of the ac­tiv­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact that will re­sult from these ex­plo­ration bids has yet to be seen, har­vesters like Starkes hope sac­ri­fices made by the prov­ince’s fish­ery do not prove fu­tile be­cause of this record­break­ing push for more off­shore oil.

“I think our pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment needs to take a bet­ter look at the con­cerns of fish­er­men. We need to have a voice,” Starkes said. “The peo­ple in the oil and gas in­dus­try want a liveli­hood and it’s the same with the fish­ery. We want young peo­ple in­ter­ested in the in­dus­try, but in or­der to have that there has to be a fish­ery there for them.”

In light of the an­nounce­ment, Starkes hopes more pres­sure will be put on gov­ern­ment to en­sure the fish­ery is of higher con­cern in any fu­ture oil and gas ex­plo­rations.



Coast of Bays-Cen­tral-Notre Dame Bay MP Scott Simms says any oil and gas ex­plo­ration planned for a marine pro­tected area ought to first prove with con­sid­er­able con­fi­dence that their work will not af­fect the con­ser­va­tion goals of a marine pro­tected area.


Gan­der-based har­vester Heather Starkes says the record-break­ing an­nounce­ment for suc­cess­ful oil and gas bids re­flects poorly on the gov­ern­ment’s con­cern for the prov­ince’s fish­ery. Starkes is chair of the 3k shrimp com­mit­tee, and a work­ing mem­ber for the area’s tur­bot com­mit­tee.

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