Letter to the Honourable Cecil Clarke on behalf of MFU Local 6: November 14, 2003
Open letter to the Honourable Robert Thibault,
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, on behalf of MFU Local 6: April 3, 2003
Presentation to the Public Review Commission by Local 6 President: Jeff Brownstein / January 17, 2002
Presentation to the Public Review Commission by Local 6 Secretary: Carlton Lunn / January 15/2002
Presentation by Fred Kennedy
Western Cape Breton Snow Crab Fishermen's Associations: Friday February 01, 2002
Habitat Status Report (RAP)
Cape Breton Public Review Commission
Recommendations from "Crude Costs", a full cost/benefit accounting report prepared for the S.O.S. Coalition
CLOSING STATEMENT TO THE PUBLIC REVIEW COMMISSION ON POTENTIAL EXPLORATION ACTIVITIES ON LICENCES 2364, 2365, 2368 (read by Jeff Brownstein on behalf of the 4Vn Management Board : February 1, 2002)
OIL & GAS : PANACEA OR PANDORA'S BOX? : Opinion piece for the Coastal Communities News / 1999
November 14, 2003To: Honourable Cecil Clarke
On behalf of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, and fishermen throughout Cape Breton, I must say that I find your comments in regards to Seismic testing in the near-shore waters off Cape Breton, most disconcerting.
I have personally been involved in the issue over the applications by Hunt Oil and Corridor Resources to explore for oil and gas in the inshore waters off both coasts of Cape Breton. I was very involved in the Public Review, and was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee. I can attest to the fact that there was never agreement that the exploration should go ahead.
You have commented, in regards to Hunt Oil not going ahead this year, that the process got too bogged down. I must clarify, for your benefit, that the Public Review, and Ad Hoc Committee were attempts by the CNSOPB to bring about some kind of consultation with affected fishermen and adjacent communities, YEARS AFTER the leases had already been awarded. In fact the whole process, and so-called Mitigation Measures were all nothing more than window-dressing. The CNSOPB, and your Department, have continuously ignored all of our concerns, and probably never intended to listen to us in the first place.
The Hunt and Corridor Environmental Assessments were never treated to a thorough review by the Ad Hoc Review process, nor the Science Review group. In fact DFO did not approve the Environmental Assessments.
I could go on for many pages to describe what are concerns are, and how all of our concerns have been ignored by the CNSOPB, and by your Department. However, I must say that it would be much more appropriate to meet with you BEFORE any application by Corridor is approved! You made the commitment back in August, when you became NS Minister of Energy, that you would meet with the groups that could be affected by these activities, before any decisions would be made, and we would like to hold you to that.
The fisheries on both sides of Cape Breton are intricately linked in one ecosystem, so that activity on either side can affect the other. Also, if the application by Corridor goes ahead, then fishermen in Sydney Bight will feel very threatened that the much-larger applications by Hunt might go ahead next year.
We really do not believe the slim chance of local benefits to the community from oil and gas exploration could possibly be worth the tremendous risks to the fishery, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and employs thousands of people around Cape Breton. In your own riding of Cape Breton North, I'm sure that the fishery remains the biggest industry. I hope that you will show us some respect, and meet with us BEFORE any decision is made on the Corridor Application, so that you may gain a better understanding of the issues, as we see them.
To: Honourable Robert Thibault,
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
200 Kent Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E6
April 3, 2003
Dear Minister Thibault
I am writing to you to ask you to intervene, on behalf of the fish stocks and ourselves who depend upon the fishery for our livelihood, in the matter of proposals to explore for Oil and Gas in the coastal waters of Cape Breton Island.
The recent announcement of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) to allow seismic exploration to go ahead this year, appears to ignore all of the concerns raised by fishermen and others, here in Cape Breton. Throughout the Ad Hoc review, and the Public Review before that, a number of concerns were raised. None of these were addressed by the CNSOPB decision. We are asking you, with your mandate of conservation of fish species, to intervene.
The proposal of the companies to carry out seismic exploration this coming November causes many threats to fish species. At that time of year the fragile cod stocks of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence will be mixing with the fragile Sydney Bight (4Vn) cod stock, and migrating to overwintering grounds, through all of the areas proposed for seismic. Seismic exploration is known to affect cod, forcing them to move away from seismic. This could be the last straw on a weakened stock that needs to migrate and conserve energy to survive the winter and, hopefully, reproduce again. In addition, herring stocks, which are extremely sensitive to sound, will still be spawning in November.
The migration of fish from the Southern Gulf, into Sydney Bight waters at that time of year, is known to be one of the largest migrations of animals of any kind, anywhere in the world.. These waters are known by your Department, as some of the most productive and sensitive waters anywhere in Canada. Thousands of people depend on the renewable resources in these waters for their livelihood, as has been the case for the past many hundred years. The life in these waters must not be put at risk.
Nothing is known whatever about the effects of seismic exploration on lobster and crabs our most valuable fisheries. The Precautionary Approach should stop seismic from going ahead.
Please, Mr. Minister, you must intervene to protect all these stocks, and those who depend upon them. Stop the threat of oil and gas exploration in these waters.
By: Jeff Brownstein,
President, Local 6, Maritime Fishermen's Union, and Chairman, 4Vn Management Board
I appear before the Commission today, not just on behalf of about 100 members of Local 6, of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, but also on behalf of thousands of people dependent on the fishery in the areas of these Leases.
The MFU has been active here in Cape Breton, and throughout the Maritimes, these past 25 years, working to give inshore fishermen a greater role in managing their livelihoods, which depend on the resources of the Sea. In recent years, in the Sydney Bight area, we have been working with other fishermen's organizations towards the same goal to have a stronger, and more responsible role in managing the fisheries for the sustainability of the fish, and the coastal communities that depend on them. Thus we created the 4Vn Management Board of four organizations: MFU Local 6; North of Smokey Fishermen's Association; Northside Fishermen's Association; and East Cape Breton Fishermen's Association. Since forming the 4Vn Management Board, we have been caught up in the battle to save our livelihoods from the risks connected to oil and gas exploration. Many other groups, and processors, are supporting us as well.
Personally, I have been involved in this issue since I came home from fishing one day in June, 1998, and saw an article in the Cape Breton Post about the Leases having been awarded to Hunt Oil Company of Texas. I was shocked! I believe that it is fair to say that I was well-known as a representative of fishermen in Sydney Bight, and the MFU is well-known. Usually we are consulted on anything to do with the fishery. But I had never heard of the possibility of oil and gas exploration in our waters. Personnel employed by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board admitted that it was not their practice then to consult with fishermen in areas up for bid, and that all areas were open for business, except maybe Georges Bank.
I called Wes Stewart, of the Cape Breton Post, who had written the article, and he referred me to Andy Parker, manager for Health, Safety, and Environment, for the CNSOPB. Mr. Parker invited me to join the Fisheries and Environmental Advisory Committee, to which I agreed. I am still a member of that Committee, but I have found very little appreciation there of the concerns that we have about possible exploration activities on these leases. First of all, the environmental groups represented on the committee at that time soon quit over lack of support and, in particular, over the way that these leases were awarded without proper environmental assessments nor even consultation with the fishing industry. Most of the people on the committee were staff of various federal and provincial government departments, who had no real stake in the process. As to the fishery, there were some reps from the offshore and midshore, but almost never anyone else from the inshore, nor anyone else from Cape Breton. They had either gone to a meeting and felt so frustrated that they wouldn't come back, or they had no faith in the process to begin with. After two-and-a-half years on the committee I have to say that it is extremely frustrating, and I don't believe that our concerns ever got to the real decision-makers except when we took to the streets and demonstrated.
For instance, when I said that the leases should never have been awarded without consultation, nobody cared. That's the way it was and we could do nothing about it. And when the CNSOPB began a project to identify Sensitive Areas, I suggested that 4Vn be identified as Sensitive, due to the mixing of stocks, and migration of so many species into, and out of, the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. My comments are in the Minutes of the ECC/FAC Meeting, but they were ignored, and the project of identifying Sensitive Areas was apparently dropped altogether by the CNSOPB.
For me, it has been quite an education learning about Oil and Gas exploration, and Impacts on the Fishery, and what various agencies, and government departments, have been, or more likely have not been, doing for us. The more that I learn, the greater are my concerns, and I am joined by most fishermen and many more people in believing that exploration should not go ahead in these areas.
I believe that we have taken an extremely responsible position all along on this issue. We have said that the fishery is very rich and productive in these areas and that it remains the most stable industry that Cape Breton has had throughout its history. Landed values of the fishery in these areas are at all-time highs.
On the other hand, benefits from the oil and gas industry have been far less than all expectations. It's another case of companies from somewhere else raping our resources and leaving a mess behind.
The real problem in all of this is that we really don't know enough about the impacts of seismic testing and exploratory drilling on our fisheries. We don't even know all of the questions let alone any of the answers that we need to really know and understand.
The latest DFO Habitat Status Report on exploration activities in these areas is very much in agreement with what we have said all along:
That together, Sydney Bight and the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence make up a very rich and productive, sensitive and dynamic, ecosystem. Most species actually migrate back and forth between the Bight and the Gulf.
Throughout the year there is spawning activity and stock migrations. There is really no time of the year when species could not be severely impacted by exploration activities.
We have some of the richest lobster and crab fisheries that can be found anywhere.
Our groundfisheries now famous for their collapse, are in various stages of rebuilding. All of our pelagic fisheries, from herring and mackerel, to swordfish and tuna, have had their ups and downs over the years. But at times, these fisheries have been bigger in these areas than anywhere else.
The Habitat Status Report is clear in stating that we really know very little about the impacts of exploration activities in these areas. What little information exists refers to other areas, very far offshore; and other species than our most important here and now.
The Report also makes a point of saying that impacts would be amplified due to the shallower water, and semi-contained environment in which these leases lie, and the high biomass and diversity of species, year-round.
The Report by Dr. Popper, which I believe was commissioned by yourself, underlines the lack of real knowledge and understanding of impacts of exploration activities in these areas. He especially highlights the importance of hearing to all animals; thus the effects that something like seismic testing would have on all creatures in these areas. He re-iterates the idea that seismic might have a drastic impact on fish and other creatures in the sea; that it may affect their migration, spawning or feeding patterns; or possibly render species more vulnerable.
There is much more in both the DFO Habitat Status Report and the Popper Report that supports what we have been saying all along as concerned fishermen and concerned citizens. The "precautionary approach" has to apply here. Our fishery is highly regulated and we agree with the goals of conservation and sustaining the resource and dependent communities. The fishery in these areas goes back 500 years since the first Europeans came and settled this new land, because of the fish. The People of the First Nations here in Unamaki will tell you that their fishery goes back a lot farther than that.
The fishery in Cape Breton has survived to this day, and even now thrives more than ever before. But we know that it can be destroyed. The technology that we have now can find and kill the last fish. So we have to be extremely cautious. The precautionary approach means that when you don't have all of the answers, then you cannot proceed. If we want to develop or expand a new fishery, we must have all of the answers as to what effect that would have on the ecosystem. If we don't have all the answers then we stick with what is safe. Thus we have had a moratorium on groundfish all these years; we have quotas for snow crab that many would argue are much too low; and we have raised the minimum carapace-size of our lobster from 2and 3/4 inches a few years ago, to 3 inches this coming season. All of these short-term sacrifices we do to ensure a future for the fish and shellfish, and for ourselves and generations to come.
Recently I was told by Neil Bellefontaine, Regional Director-General for DFO Maritimes, that he was quite proud of the fishermen in Sydney Bight, where we were the first area to achieve DFO's target of doubling egg production in all Lobster Fishing Areas. Years ago this started with meetings of fishermen and DFO Science personnel discussing tagging studies, and growth and movement of lobsters. We knew that something had to be done to ensure a lucrative lobster fishery into the future. And fishermen voted to raise the carapace size. 75% of fishermen voted in favour! We do care about conservation and a future for our communities. It would be a real crime to risk that with activity that we don't know enough about its effects.
The government of Canada passed the Oceans Act back in 1996. This Act calls for an Oceans Management Strategy, " based on the principles of
sustainable development, that is, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs;
the integrated management of activities in estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters that form part of Canada or in which Canada has sovereign rights under international law: and
the precautionary approach, that is, erring on the side of caution."
Recently the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans produced a Report on the Oceans Act. The Report is quite critical of DFO not following these principles above, and not using the power they have to protect the fishery, and the interests of stakeholders.
It would be against all good sense and judgement, then, to allow exploration in these inshore waters. There is too much unknown; not understood. Anyone who says that exploration activities can go ahead without damage to the fishery just does not care about our oldest industry; nor the creatures in the sea; nor the truth for that matter. We just don't know.
The fishery is constant and changing all at the same time. It is just as important to the economy of this Island as it ever was, but we make a living off of different species now. Twenty years ago the richest fishery in Sydney Bight was goundfish: cod, haddock, halibut, hake, flounder and redfish. At that time the Snow Crab fishery was still new. Then the crisis in the groundfishery saw at the same time all-time record landings of lobster. Now our biggest fishery might very well be the Snow Crab fishery. That is the nature of our livelihoods from the sea. We are multi-species, community-based fishermen and women who continue to make a good living, as long as someone else doesn't come along and put it all at risk. We never know what species will be most important to us in the future.
We have heard some people speak about the oil and gas exploration on the West Coast of Newfoundland, as if everyone got along great between the fishermen and the oil and gas companies. While I'm sure that it's true that Newfoundlanders may well be hospitable to a fault, I have had correspondence from David Decker, who is the staff person on the West Coast for the Newfoundland Fish, Food and Allied Workers FFAW/CAW). Mr. Decker thus represents the majority of fishermen on the West coast of Newfoundland and he states quite clearly that they have many concerns about the possible impact of all the seismic surveys. He also goes on to say:
"Also, there has been one offshore well drilled in Bay St. George and in this instance the concerns of fishermen were ignored. Drilling went ahead as planned, although it was in what is probably one of the most productive fishing areas of the West Coast."
I'm sure that David Decker wouldn't mind my telling you that he wished us the best of luck in stopping any exploration activity in these inshore areas, and wished that they could have stopped them there as well. Apparently it all happened too fast for them to react.
In fact, there was seismic surveying done during spawning periods (April and May) in Bay St. George. While the oil companies are proud of this as if to say that the fishermen didn't mind a bit and that no harm was done, this is definitely not the truth. The fishermen do, in fact, have grave concerns, and impacts may not show up for some time. The example only proves that the oil and gas explorers will do whatever they can get away with.
To quote Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers:
"In our opinion, environmental assessments conducted by oil companies involved in exploration and development on the Grand Banks and other east coast areas have downplayed the potential impacts of their activities on fisheries and fish habitat. Why would we expect any different? It is not in the proponent's self-interest to undertake an impartial assessment. It is not human nature, let alone corporate behaviour, to prepare your own indictment. Cigarette companies didn't develop the warnings on their products. The information provided is biased and selective in nature"
It would appear that all of our relevant agencies and government departments are in some kind of a "learning process" on this whole issue. It's as if they're all taking a precautionary approach to the precautionary approach. They are all willing to let mistakes happen in order to learn from them later. This is the terrible problem with leaving decisions in the hands of people who really have nothing to lose if the ecosystem is adversely impacted. Thus we have the CNSOPB, who probably care more about defending their decisions than they do the fate of the fishery in such a sensitive area. For all of us who depend upon the sea for a living, this is not just some kind of intellectual exercise this is a battle for survival!
We cannot wait for appropriate agencies to develop integrated management planning, if they only do so after some sensitive areas are damaged. Nor can we wait until a great deal more research is done into impacts of exploratory activities; while letting these activities proceed in sensitive areas all the same.
People often used to criticize fishermen as being either too rich and greedy, or too poor and lazy. The fact is most fishermen make a moderate livelihood, and their income all remains here in the local economy. Here in the beautiful County of Victoria, for instance, we know that the fishery is certainly the largest industry we have. It always was, and should continue to be so. It is the largest employer, and the wages are quite good, relative to other industries. The next largest industry is tourism, and that is obviously intricately linked to the fishery. Fishermen spend all of their earnings either here in this County, or in the shopping malls and service industries in Cape Breton County, where the fishery is even larger. The Victoria County Council unanimously passed a motion calling for a moratorium on all oil and gas exploration in the leased areas. They quickly understood that we have everything to lose and nothing to gain from exploration here. Do the people of Cape Breton County realize what they could lose from such risky activity?
I have said that our position has been a very responsible one: We have a very valuable fishery that deserves protection from activity whose impacts are not well enough known nor understood. This is all borne by facts and figures that you have received. This is not based on assumptions, but on real facts. You can readily see the facts on the value of the industry, and you have the documents that highlight the knowledge gaps. We shouldn't even need to be here defending our right to a traditional livelihood that is the backbone of Cape Breton.
I was surprised that in your "Identification of Issues/Information Meetings, Report of Concerns", there was hardly any mention of process. That is, the licensing process of the CNSOPB. I know that is not part of the Terms of Reference of this Public Review, but it is the reason that we are all here in the first place. More than that, it is the background to a conflict which should not exist. It is terribly unfair to have people with good livelihoods have to defend their living and the environment against people who are desperate for work and are being told pipeline dreams. At the first round of Identification of Issues and Concerns meetings, we actually heard people talking about ten oil rigs and 10,000 jobs on these leases just in Sydney Bight. This is preposterous!
Exploration activity will yield very few jobs, if any, for local people. The lease holders would have to admit that. And it's very rare that exploration ever leads to production, and takes many years in between. After all the risks plagued on the fisheries with exploration recently along the Port au Port peninsula of Newfoundland, the exploratory well came up dry. I don't know the exact percentage of times that exploration activity leads to production, but I know that it is very tiny. The oil and gas industry people seem quite content to take all kinds of risks somehow it seems that they even make money when they don't find anything. But while they are out there speculating, the real risks might be severe impacts on the environment and our livelihoods.
Production is outside your Terms of Reference, so it should not be discussed much here at this Public Review. We should not hear all these fantasies about jobs for everyone. The news media has been full of stories the last few years about all the ways that our rich reserves of oil and gas are being piped to the USA leaving behind far fewer benefits than all the predictions. Sable Island is much closer to Cape Breton than to Halifax, but what benefits came here.
Please make no mistake, we wish Cape Bretoners the best of luck in developments that would be less risky to the environment. The real riches are estimated to lie in the deeper waters of the Laurentian Channel, as around Sable Island. Our fleets fish these areas also, but we can consider coexistence in these areas, because the oil and gas potential is richer out there; the fishery not so concentrated as it is in the lease areas in question here, and the impacts easier to mitigate in much deeper, more open waters. This is how coexistence is practised in the countries that are often cited, such as Norway and Scotland. There protection of the fishery is prioritized, and exploration and production are all well offshore.
The impacts of seismic surveys are not well known; particularly in an ecosystem like we have here, and on the species that we are most dependent on. What makes it the more dangerous, is that the entire area of the leases and beyond, even would be covered with seismic testing, even though an exploratory well would be drilled in one particular spot. When could such seismic be done safely? There is no safe time. We know fish or shellfish are spawning from spring through late fall; after which there are fish migrating from the Gulf to overwinter in Sydney Bight. Then there is coverage of the sea with the pack ice. And this is based on the few species that we know something about. There are so many others which we are not so familiar with.
Based on passed history of exploration in these areas, if any exploratory wells would be drilled, that would likely be dangerously close to the rich Snow Crab grounds East of Cape Smokey. That's where the last wells were drilled, with very poor result.
How could anyone think of putting such a valuable ecosystem, and a valuable fishery at such a risk that cannot even be measured nor understood? Isn't there enough room and potential further offshore?
How can anyone read the DFO Habitat Status Report on this area and even continue the discussion of potential exploration?
If there is any gas in the ground under the sea, it has been there for thousands of years, and is not going anywhere. Why rush to explore when the risks are so great and unknown?
Dr. MacNeil, I want to wish you a long and healthy life, so that you will see how your recommendation to stop any exploration activity in these areas leads to a healthy and prosperous fishery and clean environment. You are our last chance to save this fishery the responsibility upon you is tremendous. We can only hope and pray that you will err on the side of caution and protect what we have.
By: Carlton Lunn
Fisherman, Secretary of the Maritime Fishermen's Union - Local 6 and Coastal Community Resident
Thank you for allowing me the time to share a few thoughts with you. This is not the first time I have felt compelled to either listen or comment at a meeting concerning the oil and gas industry and the exploratory leases granted in the Cape Breton near-shore areas.
At the majority, if not all of those meetings, any talk about the flawed process which allowed the leasing of near-shore areas to oil and gas exploration was either disallowed or ignored. To my mind the process is flawed because
the full blown environmental studies and public consultation that should have happened first, didn't; and
the onus of proof that should have been on the oil and gas industry, wasn't.
Any granting of any leases should only have taken place after the aforementioned two criteria were met.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us in a fight that should never have happened. A fight that, when over, will likely as not have no victors and the lessons that should be learned will probably fall on deaf ears.
So who am I and others like me trying to convince that oil and gas exploration and development on sensitive near shore fishing areas is wrong and should not be allowed to take place?
I would have to begin with oil and gas seismic and exploration representatives who are trying to convince us that the impact will be minimal but who have no relevant documented proof to back up these claims.
I would include Provincial politicians who see potential monies for provincial coffers and are putting the message out to job hungry Cape Bretoner's that there will be lots of work but have yet to explain just where the work will come from.
I'll include Federal politicians, one of whom is our Federal Fisheries Minister who supports the Oceans Act and preaches conservation, conservation, conservation, but told us a year ago that he is unable to act in our defence to ensure that our waters and the species in them are protected as is his mandate.
I have to mention municipal leaders who only see jobs, jobs, jobs and whatever other economic benefits they are told to expect and forget how much economic benefit they receive from the fishing industry which they seem willing to put at risk.
Then there are the unemployed public who are under the impression that the boom times are coming and there will be many jobs created but who don't understand or seriously underestimate the importance of the fishing industry.
Why do I and others like me feel we have to convince people that oil and gas exploration should not take place in these near-shore areas?
I would say mainly because the process has let us down. Permits were issued without considering or caring about the consequences.
We want to maintain an economically sustainable, infinitely renewable and culturally important way of life.
We want to stop events that, because we have no proof to the contrary, could have the potential to permanently harm the environment, the communities, the people and the vibrant economy of Cape Breton and indeed of Nova Scotia itself.
We think it's time the business community, the general public and our political representatives, at all levels, finally understand how vital and important the fishing industry is to the Nova Scotian economy.
Lets explore some of these thoughts:
As previously mentioned, I've attended a number of meetings over the past two years concerning the near-shore leases granted to Corridor Resources & Hunt Oil. Some of these meetings were put on by the seismic and exploration sector of oil and gas to try and explain why they thought that little harm would result from their work in the leased areas. These people had little trouble and took pride in describing in great detail the size and type of gear to be used and exactly how it worked. They also had no trouble explaining where and how they would carry out their work and how easy it would be.
Where they ran into trouble was trying to give any kind of real information on the effects of their work. The only actual fact they seemed able to relay was that their work would kill larvae. The rest was all conjecture. They were not sure how many species would be affected, they didn't know what species were where and in what concentrations. They didn't know how immature or adult stages of species would be affected. They used examples from other areas of the world, all offshore areas and even then said that any detrimental effects seen might have been caused by their industry or could have been a natural course of events that would have occurred without their intervention.
As well, any seismic sponsored meeting I've attended thus far has been unable to provide any examples of inshore or near-shore areas where exploration has taken place long enough to gather any relevant information regarding the impact of seismic and exploratory work. There is no solid data or proof out there. Where are the research documents? I'll be darned if I sit idly by and allow Cape Breton to be used as the guinea pig for unknown impacts from oil and gas exploration, especially when the true impact is not likely to be felt for many years to come, and if that impact turns out to be devastating, it will be too late to try and lay blame. The recent collapse of the cod stocks should be a reminder to us all as to what can happen when warnings are ignored.
Oil and gas interests, when referring to the effects of seismic work and exploration, use a lot of terms and phrases such as "we think this" or "we can't see that happening" or "this species should do this"; terms and phrases that say only one thing, they do-not-know.
They say they will conduct their surveys at a time of year of reduced fishing activities and only take a short time to complete. Well, a bomb only takes a short time to explode and short bursts of radiation can be devastating to a living organism the effects not being immediately evident. These are things we know about and would naturally avoid. But in our case what if the seismic work happened to seriously harm or kill a lower organism that was the main food source for a higher organism, which in turn was a food source for an even higher organism? Could we unknowingly allow such a scenario to play out. No living organism survives without food. Now, perhaps this scenario wouldn't take place, but the point is that we do- not - know. So why would we take such a risk on jeopardizing an eco-system and economic provider based on unknowns. That does not make sense. There is no need or crisis to force us to proceed with this work.
Ask yourself why some European countries who have a lengthy history with oil and gas have banned oil and gas exploration from their coasts?
One of the biggest supporters of oil and gas exploration and development are our own provincial politicians. Their various speeches and presentations extol the economic virtues of this industry, even when the industry is telling us themselves that there will only be small numbers of jobs created and practically none at all in the seismic and exploration areas. The best we can hope for is support industries and we are told that the industry has yet to decide these issues and there are no guarantees. This is the oil and gas industry talking here. Who's running this show anyway? Our provincial government? The same government who has such control on the Casino interests in our province? I think we all know who rules the roost there!
And what if we get these so called guarantees, these local landing sites, this small percentage of profits, these few jobs, but down the road they don't work out for whatever reason (perhaps as simple as laying some pipe along a road). What then? All they have really done is given Cape Bretoner's an exaggerated and inflamed vision of a possible future. What unemployed person or economically challenged community wouldn't jump at such a vision? If I were in their position I certainly would.
Our politicians have unwittingly pitted the unemployed against many of their neighbours who are surviving in one of the few economically viable and sustainable industries left in Nova Scotia, the fishing industry, and that is what we are trying to protect.
One of the great problems we have with our politicians, both federally and provincially, is that they don't represent the people who elect them. They represent those who fund them. For their part, bureaucrats rarely seem to have a handle on the portfolios they are employed to advise their ministers about and all too often seem to make decisions based on questionable statistics and corporate lobbying, rather then on facts.
After taking away coal and steel, they would have us believe that oil and gas is Cape Breton's next panacea, but I caution all Cape Bretoner's that this could very well be the opening of Pandora's Box.
I recently listened with distain to a portion of a speech given by a local Cape Breton MLA(Manning MacDonald, January 8/02 to the CBRM Council). In his speech, this MLA mentioned Sydney Bight and the Laurentian Basin. Sydney Bight is near-shore and the Laurentian Basin is offshore, but this speaker lumped the two together and gave the impression that Sydney Bight was part of an area that had ten times the economic benefit of any other Nova Scotia find when in fact there has yet to be exploration to determine if there is any oil or gas to be found at all! This is mis-leading and inaccurate. To raise hopes with such mis-leading information in an economically sensitive area that has just lost it's steel and coal industries is irresponsible behaviour on the part of a politician let alone a Cape Bretoner..
This saviour type of talk from our politicians doesn't impress me at all, especially when there is no support mentioned for one of Cape Breton's and Nova Scotia's biggest employers and economic contributors, the fishing industry.
Even our educational institutions are getting involved. The University College of Cape Breton is a case in point. I used to think these institutions were dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, to open-mindedness and free thinking. I think there is something wrong when a UCCB petroleum department employee (Lucia MacIssac, Cape Breton Post, January 10/02) uses scare- mongoring tactics by publically declaring to the business community and any one else who cares to listen, that a moratorium in near-shore waters would send a devastating signal to the natural gas industry because they won't bother coming to Cape Breton. Funny, they used to talk of all the opportunities to Cape Breton from the offshore area of the Laurentian Basin. What happened to that? Why is it now proclaimed that the near-shore areas are Cape Breton's only hope even when there is no proof that there is anything out there worthwhile going after? The moratorium on fish rich Georges Bank didn't drive the oil and gas industry from the mainland's shores now did it?
You know, it's funny, if there were an endangered species living in one of these near- shore areas that might be adversely affected the result would be academic. There would be no leases granted. At what point am I, a fisherman, going to be considered an endangered species? Is that what it would take to prevent these types of unproven activities from taking place in such sensitive and rich waters? I say all the more reason to look at the process by which leases are granted.
Between ill-informed MLA's and ill-advised proclamations by UCCB's employee's the general public and business community of Cape Breton are being mis-informed of the realities of oil and gas exploration off Cape Breton's coasts.
Just today, in the Cape Breton Post I read a letter to the editor (Oil and gas can co-exist with fishing - Cape Breton Post, January 15/02) from a person who is under the impression that what those of us who are trying to hold back exploration in our near-shore waters are, in actuality, trying to prevent offshore development. Here is one more example of how the public is being misinformed by the very events and people I just mentioned. If there is going to be any area of co-existence then the offshore is where it would be, as has been demonstrated in other areas of the province.
Little does this person realize that our protestations could be saving much of what is left of Cape Breton's economic future.
The most frightening aspect of this whole thing is the unknown, the potential for harm - is it big or is it small? Nobody knows. They think, they presume, they hope that it is minimal, but they don't know. What if it is huge, then what? What if the harm doesn't show for 10, 15 or 20 years? Will it just be an "I told you so" situation as in the cod fiasco? Who will blame whom then? Will those who depend on the fishing industry be fully protected and who will determine that level of protection?
More important than financial protection for those involved in the fishing sector is the industry itself. Why would we even consider potentially damaging an existing industry that has been and will be hugely economically sustainable, profitable and renewable in exchange for an industry that is limited in all the afore-mentioned areas? It doesn't make sense to me and I'm sure it doesn't to you either.
The only known facts we have are that seismic kills, exploratory wells will kill and full production will displace and kill. The topic of debate appears to be how much and where, and whether or not we allow any of the previous stages of oil and gas to proceed without adequate information, such as a full blown, environmental impact study.
At the moment we have no full blown studies on larvae amounts, species, areas and times of the year they are in our near-shore waters. We have no full blown studies on effects of oil and gas on either indigenous or migratory species.
The types of studies we need to determine these sorts of things require many years of work, and why not? We're not in an oil or gas crisis at the moment and there are plenty of offshore areas of interest. Because there are so many unknowns at this time, there is only one clear course of action that demands to be recognized and that is implementation of the precautionary principle. When you don't know the answers to critical questions raised by a situation that has potential to cause serious and irreparable harm, then you cease all activity until you find the answers, no matter how long it takes.
At the very least, we must have a moratorium until a full blown environmental impact study is done. We have lots of time. So, I say to all involved is our way of life, our communities and our industry worth protecting? I would shout "yes" to the rooftops.
Where will we be 25 years from now?
Here we are at another trigger point in this process. The hearings come to a close and your deliberation phase begins. During the several weeks we have attended these public hearings we have heard a variety of positions put forward on the oil and gas explorations plans Corridor Resources and Hunt Oil want to pursue in the near-shore waters off Cape Breton Island.
There are those groups that are poles apart, and then there are the moderates that are cautiously nervous about the call for coexistence.
"There are those that want absolutely no oil and gas development for very fundamental reasons and there are those who would have you give the green light and let the exploration process go ahead at Mach IV with their hair on fire.
"The moderates say similar words but they have different meaning.
One group says, "let's do it when science is done".
The other segment says, "let's do some independent science and see IF we can do it".
Each position, with some exception, was argued sincerely. Some submissions were well researched while others were presented straight from the heart.
Those that adopt the Mach IV with their hair on fire mode speak of co-existence without science BUT don't concern themselves with job retention, focusing only on job creation.
"Despite your statements considering the purpose of the hearings, they chose to ignore the focus of your mandate and extolled the benefits that dealt with only the production scenarios that could accrue from the exploration phases.
Those groups on the other end of the pole chose to interpret the science to support a position that would see you recommend only an indefinite or long term moratorium on the affected areas.
"There are no conditions that would see oil and gas exploration acceptable.
In our individual vigour to both, "defend the reality of the present" and "promote the glitter that the future change promises", we saw fellow Cape Bretoners sadly pitted against one another. The common goal was argued in a two-headed effort, "self preservation" and "the possible dream of having our future generations find lasting employment in the oil & gas patch". All this had a worthy result intended. We both want to have a good future . to have jobs and a place to work at those jobs.
"During the process someone was heard to have said, "if we don't watch it, while we are scrimmaging in the middle, the oil and gas companies will do an end run on us and score their goal.
"So it is our hope that we (Islanders) could team up to make sure the oil and gas companies address their business plans openly and with the full intention of Cape Bretoners sharing in the benefits should science prove coexistence is viable.
Reality got lost a little during the debate. It did emerge from time to time. Consider the key factors of the DFO Habitat Status Report.
"The waters in which Parcel 1 is located represents less than 1% of Canada's exclusive Maritime zone,
but accounts for approximately 15% of the total catch of Canadian fisheries
"The SGSL is a shallow semi-enclosed inland sea that is a highly productive seasonal environment
Contains important migration and spawning grounds
As well as nursery areas
and is a growth and feeding area during ice-free periods
"The western coast of Cape Breton and Sydney Bight is the main migration pathway between over-wintering grounds outside the gulf and spawning and feeding grounds in the southern gulf. The multi species which can be found here are:
Cod, Plaice, White Hake, Witch Flounder, Herring, Mackerel, Tuna
"This migration occurs through a narrow body of water and contains approximately 2 billion pounds of commercial fish annually.
"Little is know about the non-commercial biomass which generally is a component of the food chain.
"Impact of oil & gas well exploration activities will be amplified due to the small, shallow, enclosed nature of the environment and the high biomass and diversity year round.
Also, consider the reality of the issues raised by Dr. Popper in his preliminary report to you.
"One of the big issues of concern in trying to respond to the issues raised is that there are few data in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that can be used to address the issues. In other words, data on topics germane to the general issues (e.g., effects of seismic activity on crabs or fish) are very limited, and data that specifically deal with the organisms at Cape Breton (e.g., snow crabs or haddock) are almost non-existent.
"How readily can one extrapolate from the literature from other locales and other species to the issues at Cape Breton?
"Long-term effects are not known: While there is some evidence (e.g., from the Norway studies) that air guns will impact short-term fishing, we do not know the actual impact of the air guns on the fishes in the area. Were they killed? Did they move away temporarily? Did they move away permanently? Were the subsequently caught fish the same animals that had been in the area previously or were they new recruits?
"The authors of the letter show considerable concern regarding the impact of seismic activity and drilling on snow crabs. Regretfully, there are virtually no data on the response of this species (or, to my knowledge, related species) to stimuli even close to those produced by air guns, or to general acoustic stimuli. Thus, it is impossible to predict their response to the signals in question, or whether intense anthropogenic sounds can do short or long-term damage to the crabs.
This is an area that is ripe for research, and one in which a simple series of studies might provide invaluable information that would help answer some of the concerns of the fisherman. For example, behavioural observation of snow crab in the presence of loud sounds might demonstrate if the animals show an escape response to the signal, and if they would move away from an area of potential harm to areas where the signals are of lower intensity. At the same time, a lack of response is hard to interpret since it could mean that the crabs either (a) did not detect the signals, (b) detected the signals but were "frozen" in fear, or (c) were quickly damaged by the signal and so could not escape.
Surely, the rights of the fishermen who have been here for generations must take precedence. MP Wayne Easter, Chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, thinks so. We believe they supported the precautionary approach when they said in their yearend report to the House.
"Fishermen have been fishing this region of the Gulf for hundreds of years and, with good management, fishing can be sustainable indefinitely into the future.
"Oil and gas development would undoubtedly provide valuable economic benefits, but at best only for a few decades.
"The Committee feels that it may be prudent to consider placing this region under an oil and gas exploration moratorium similar to that on the Georges Bank until the fishermen and their communities can be assured that the risks of exploration and development are minimal.
"The Committee believes that, in the long term, no great harm would result from a moratorium as any oil and gas reserves are only likely to increase in value.
Then we saw a sign of co-operation emerge from the Boards of Trade of Industrial Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.
"There was acknowledgement that the explorations phase of oil and gas would provide "minimal benefits to Cape Bretoners". Considering the lack of suitable science they agreed to join with us to call on the oil and gas companies for independent high quality science to be conducted in the affected waters. Only in this way will we know if coexistence could work for all stakeholders.
On a positive note, there were calls from several groups for cooperation and discussions to work out the problems so we could strive towards the desirable goal of coexistence.
"A number of the stakeholders slowly came to appreciate that this was essential if a realistic solution was to be found to a very complex series of issues.
We saw the oil and gas companies say they want to gain our trust one step at a time. When they presented their submissions, they presented scenarios that were one-sided and weighted in their best interests. They chose not to present a balanced characterization of some issues.
"You heard Dr. Trevor Kenchington say the Environmental Assessments contained in the Corridor and Hunt submissions were seriously unacceptable. He did offer that the regulators would "rubber stamp" these assessments and this of course would trigger exploration in any application.
Seems to us that this is another symptom of a dangerously flawed process.
"Let's discuss seismic shooting under this qualification. But first I would like to provide a quote from Dr. Rolf Davis in his May 31, 1999 letter to Andre d'Entremont, CNSOPB, concerning RFP for Effects of Seismic Exploration on East Coast Fishery. Dr. Davis is concerned about the quality of the seismic study issue. (These quotes come from the resource material provided you in the Mary Gorman/Percy Hayne submission)
"The problem (effects of seismic on fish) is an interesting one and one that is extremely complex. Seismic exploration can potential affect both fish populations and the success of the fishery."
"The proposed budget might allow some preliminary studies of the short-term responses of schools of herring to seismic pulses."
"However, what is the value of such short-term response information?"
"More studies on short-term response are not needed."
"Such studies require detailed base-line data on fish populations and behaviour."
"Thus, the study techniques can potentially bias the study results."
"All of these factors need to be addressed in properly designed studies that will provide information that will be useful to regulators" (and by inference the fish industry).
"Well, we continue to be concerned about the Environmental Assessment that awaits dispatch to the CNSOPB. All that awaits the "rubber stamp" is your final report.
Based on his letter to the CNSOPB Dr. Davis is extremely concerned about the quality of study work that the regulators should undertake before they allow exploration but he made little mention of the behavioural & sub-lethal effects on stocks in the Corridor Resources seismic tract.
Neither did he make adequate reference to the migratory stocks that would pass through the Corridor Resources seismic tract.
Dr. Kenchington made it clear:
Seismic over spawning fish NOT acceptable
Seismic over migrating fish VERY RISKY
Seismic over feeding fish RISKY
Risks with depleted fish NOT acceptable
"Then there is the continuing issue of the release of water based drilling muds. We have been chasing this for the last two weeks and there is no apparent answer even as the Public Hearings come to a close.
We have developed a modest calculation of 30,000,000 pounds of muds and cuttings that can be dumped onto our crab grounds during the exploration process.
This is based on a calculation much less than the mud/cuttings accumulation from the Georges Bank report. If we use these averages per hole drilled we get a figure greater than 163,000,000 pounds. We know there is a difference between the holes drilled there and in our affected waters. However can it be this great. Something is wrong here.
We would urge you continue to research this situation and determine just what the drilling muds and cuttings would be. Please let us know when you find this out.
"Additionally, we continue to be uncertain as to the mercury (and other heavy metal) content in the water based drilling muds. This debate continues and we urge you to get to the definitive bottom of this. Perhaps a request to the Federal Department of Environment would be in order.
"We have heard from Dr. Kenchington about the razor sharp particles that are a natural by-product of barite drilling muds. It kills the filter feeders that are a part of the food chain for the bottom dwellers including snow crab.
We are seriously concerned about this matter and we are frustrated that the issue of the quantity of drilling mud generated by the proposed Corridor project.
We need definitive answers to this and you need those same answers to this issue.
If these are real problems then it is obvious that a very stringent discharge policy need be put in place in any oil and gas project.
If it is agreed that snow crab will be the most obvious stock to be affected, then why not take action to safeguard the risk side? Consider the contrast in the following statements by Dr. Davis.
"Rolf Davis made it clear that there is no science but he said, "we are not worried it is our considered opinion that the risk is minimal". What kind of scientific hypothesis is this?
"Of course they are not worried! It's not their livelihoods they are playing with. It is only this "play" that they are playing with.
There are lots of plays off the coast of Nova Scotia that are not being developed. There is little opposition to those.
Why fight a battle on such an indefensible front if they want to have the trust of the fishery?
This does little to promote trust amongst the stakeholders.
"I characterize this cavalier approach to science as, "if you don't know where you as going, a random walk in the rain forest will get you there".
Corridor Resources suggest we will be compensated for our loss of access to sea bottom and other related negative impacts of exploration on snow crab landings.
"But we have no program to formalize the process before they drill.
"Lets drill and see how you make out", they say.
"If you are out-of-pocket we will reimburse you".
I suggest this will take a court case to resolve.
This is, without question, Unfair and Unacceptable!!
"If the reward is so great why not establish a fair compensation package in advance of any exploration.
"It is difficult to have trust when there is so much uncertainty.
You know from your role as a mediator, it is not so much "what they say" as it is "what they don't say". We have had too many "non-answer" answers from the oil companies.
"We have to keep in mind it is not likely that Corridor Resources will be the developer of this project. While they will do the exploration phases they are not big enough to fully develop this project.
"Who will be the big partner? What is their track record on the ecology and how fair are they when dealing with the fishery. WILL they HONOUR the commitments made by Mr. Miller.
Except for the "Mach IV with their on fire" crowd, everyone including the oil and gas companies agreed that science on the effects of seismic on snow crab must be conducted to learn the safety levels.
"However, there were no commitments from the oil and gas companies to ensure this would take place through the ESRF mechanism.
"This study must be structured in such a way as to be fully comprehensive and site specific.
It's like taking this great chunk of money and letting it roll on the crap-table at the casino. The logic for this position is really questionable. It's a win/lose scenario not co-existence. It is a position taken out of arrogance and ignorance so it is somewhat understandable. All the same it is risky business -- but taking a big risk is an easy thing to do when it is someone else's resources you are putting on the line.
"The root problem is uncertainty. More specifically, the problem is scientific uncertainty. Is there any wonder those who have the most to lose say, "if in doubt keep them out"?
There are a great many industrial projects that have come and gone over the years. It seems to us that Cape Bretoners are up their necks in job-loss disasters.
"Closure of the Steel Mill --
and the resultant impacts of the coke ovens and tar ponds
although these can be considered as employment generators.
"Closure of the Heavy Water plants in Glace Bay & Port Hawkesbury
"Closure of the refinery at Port Hawkesbury
"Closure of coal mines
"Then of course there was the cod moratorium that had to put in place -- hundreds lost their jobs.
"Let us not add the remaining fisheries to this list
The most senior of Regional DFO officials have told the Commission that the affected areas are more sensitive and more productive that the Georges Bank area where a moratorium has been in place for years and continues now.
"Surely, if Georges Bank dictates that a moratorium be put in place, for sensitive and scientific reasons, then shouldn't the affected areas in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sydney Bight deserve no less a consideration?
During your tenure as a professor I am sure you had students come before you with a project report or an exam. In that situation you were easily able to see where thorough preparation and quality arguments (or lack of same) were made to support the hypothesis put forward.
"If the foundation did not support the results, conclusions and recommendations, then you gave a grade according to merit.
You assigned a pass or failure, together with suggestions for improvement.
"No difference here really. Dr. Popper, DFO and Dr. Trevor Kenchington all made it clear there is simply too little known. The foundation of the "pro" arguments does not have the substance to support the superstructure. We all know from the ENRON bankruptcy case in the front pages of all the recent business papers what an illusion that house of cards was.
However, we really do know a great deal about what you are facing.
"We know the affected areas are the most sensitive and productive in Eastern Canada -- if not all of Canada.
"We know the diversity is unique and plentiful
"2 billion pounds of fish pass through these channels every year
"We know there are 12,234 fishermen in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence
We know the landed value is $361 million annually
We know there are 9,000 plant workers
The revenue from adding value at 145 plants if $550 million annually
"We know the fishery on the Sydney Bight side of the DFO management regions is similarly valuable to the economy of Nova Scotia.
"We know there are huge knowledge gaps (HSR, Popper, Kenchington, et al)
"We know there is no science in the world on effects of seismic/drilling muds on snow crab"We know the quality of the "not-so-independent" EA's submitted by the oil companies is questionable
"We know the benefits from oil and gas exploration are minimal
"We know the risks are great
"We know the people who will take the risk will receive no or little benefit
Communities of Pleasant Bay, Bay St. Lawrence, Cheticamp, Margaree, Inverness, Mabou, Grand Etang, & Port Hood
"We know that DFO are under funded to perform the proper science so that our industry
"We know that nobody else wants to do the science necessary to protect to ecology and fishery.
"We know there is full and comprehensive agreement that seismic has a very real, short term, devastating effect on stocks and ecosystem.
"We know that we don't know the longer term effects.
"We know the fishermen argue for the precautionary approach.
"We know the oil and gas companies say they are not worried. After all things will get back to normal -- in time.
"We know it's a crapshoot to proceed.
It is now 20 to 30 years since the 80,000 kilometres of seismic shooting was conducted and there is no single answer that everyone can agree to as to the impacts.
"The oil companies say there is no science to illustrate a definitive answer to the results but they are sure the declines in landings, over subsequent years, were not caused by the seismic testing. They have analysed the trend lines of the charts and say there is no correlation between seismic and fluctuations in the landings data.
"The fishermen agree that there is no specific science to determine if seismic is at fault for the poor landings some years following the major seismic efforts of the 70's and 80's. But on the other hand they conduct an analysis of the very same data the oil companies used and drew a direct correlation between poor landings and seismic.
"No agreement is possible without proper science as its foundation. Only a stand-off of "we say" -- "they say". If oil and gas, as well as business, leaders agree that the benefits from exploration activities are minimal -- then we know that the short-term gains versus the long-term uncertain risk makes it difficult to evaluate a "go or "no-go" decision. Similarly, if one considers the long-term effects of oil and gas production then one would have to recognize that more than a few jobs could be created. However, we still have to deal with the ability to crystal-ball what the long-term negative effects may be. At the moment we are no closer to agreement on this issue still a "We say" . "They say" scenario. So, "if in doubt keep them out" at least until the science has been done to let us know whether co-existence is viable.
You ask how do we get the high quality scientific studies done so we can have a reasonable knowledge of the major impacts.
"We all struggle to help you find the answer.
"Mostly the oil and gas companies are quiet on the issue. I call this the modified ostrich approach. Sitting there with their heads buried and hope you don't ask them to "put up".
"No one wants to bear the burden of proof. Problem is you have to deal with proof scientific proof. So there is no sitting still.
"We believe this precautionary approach starts with you.
Two Federal Ministers gave cause for you to have a mandate to ask these questions and seek these answers.
It was the CNSOPB that chose to restrain you from achieving this honourable goal. They limit the areas of interest (no production, no environmental impact assessments, no socio-economic impact studies). Then they limit the budget so you cannot afford to find the answers.
"Some argue that the way we do it here is wrong. If we were to adopt a process similar to the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy we would not be in this uncertain position now. In Norway, public consultations and environmental assessments must be completed before any parcel is opened for exploration. It takes an act of the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) to open any area for exploration activities. All areas are closed until all prudent study has been completed before co-existence is even considered.
"It is likely that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could play a major role under the Oceans Act.
We need their science abilities to help us understand where the sensitive ecosystems are. It is the entire "ecosystem approach" that must be considered.
Their Area Management group will know about the aspects of best practices and how to maintain sustainability of the resources
"And lastly, we will need a leader. Someone who can bring together and engage the full range of stakeholders. A partial list might include.
DFO Science, et al
The fishing community
"We need to begin with those studies we have been arguing for -- for years now
Full environmental assessments
"You will have to recommend that this be properly funded. Remember the movie, Field of Dream -- "Build it and they will come"? Well, you write your recommendation carefully and "they will do it".
From all that you have heard here over the past four weeks you are left to sift the pearls of realism from the Mach IV's asking you for a "GO" recommendation. And you must find those same pearls of realism from the sincere cries of the advocators who plead and even demand that you declare a "stay-away-zone" for our sensitive and productive waters.
"Against these you must balance the views of the core groups who have journeyed long and worked hard to have you believe that the knowledge gaps are just too great to take the risk.
"Certainly we can agree there is ample risk for minimal benefits of the exploration related activities. Virtually all agree the benefits from these phases are minimal.
When you marked exams as a professor you always generated a bell curve from the distribution of marks. It was easy to throw away the out-lying data nodes and deal only with the core under the bell.
"In a way we wish you could do this. But to be fair to all, you have to provide a fair and/or realistic weighting to most all of the submissions. Because in most all there is the interwoven thread of reality that deserves your sincere consideration.
During the public hearing process you heard some say we have learned from our mistakes of the past. That's why the precautionary approach has become law in the Oceans Act.
"Remember the words of Dr. Mikio Moriyasu, "We really won't know for ten years possibly, if a mistake was made in letting oil and gas proceed".
"Remember Mick Green who journeyed thousands of miles from Wales to tell us, "The real problem emerges in the cumulative effects after many years.
"He told us that Germany does not allow any over-side dumping of cuttings and drilling muds. This is obviously the result of a lesson they learned from their mistakes of the past.
"Remember Dr. Kenchington told us the window of opportunity for exploration is very narrow.
Remember Dr. Kenchington also told us that there is no window that did not contain some RISK of damage to the various species that are in the water at that time of the year.
The forest industry has learned from its mistakes and they operate here with a stewardship approach. StoraEnso have won awards for their environmental successes. A long way from where this industry started.
We in the snow crab fishery have learned to do this as well. For your reference we are attaching a copy of the Area 19 co-management agreement with DFO. It may interest you to know this was the FIRST co-management agreement in Canada. From this you will be able to see how carefully we approach resource management and how we share the benefits of this resource with others in our communities in years of abundance.
Also attached is a series of schematics from DFO Science illustrating where the levels of effort have taken place in the snow crab fishery for the decade of the 90's. You can see that the wells in Parcel 1 will certainly displace the way of life for many of our fishermen.
Standing at this trigger point and looking way out there on the horizon -- to the year 2025, let us not be able to reflect on this issue and say, "what a very expensive lesson we have learned from that mistake in our past". Let us allow precaution to guide our mind and actions here.
On the positive side, this Public Hearing process has provided for a gathering of a rather diverse group of people, on all sides of this issue, who I believe have come to have a more sincere understanding of the "other person's" reason for being here. I know for one, I have come to appreciate the need for all Cape Bretoners to band together here to make absolutely certain that we achieve the most from the challenges ahead of us. If that means co-existence then let's do it so we can all exist. Lets not do it so one wins and one loses.
I have made friendships here that will last the rest of my life and I thank you Dr. MacNeil for that opportunity. You have conducted a very fair process and I think we can all say we had our chance to make a difference before your each day of the hearings. We compliment you on your approach. It took great skill to keep these hearings on course, making progress each day and in the end making it possible for all to believe a fair result will come from your Commission. On behalf of the Western Cape Breton Snow Crab Fishermen I would like to thank you and wish you great luck as you take on your next challenge.
In closing Madam Commissioner we urge you to ponder long and hard on all the evidence you have heard at these hearings and weigh the inputs carefully. And in helping you to frame your recommendations please allow reflection on what "they" will say of your decision twenty-five years from now. I would hope our children will be able to say, "You know, that Dr. Teresa MacNeil -- she is a wise person. We owe a lot to her because of a brave decision she took during that long cold winter of 2002".
And finally, may I just add. The Wagmatcook Cultural & Heritage Centre has been a good venue to hold these hearings. As you look around and read the signs on the walls you see one that says, "When the wisdom keepers speak, all should listen". So as we leave these hearings today, Dr. MacNeil, may we leave here --- a little bit wiser and a little bit humbler ... a little bit wiser and a little bit humbler.Thank you
A full-cost accounting analysis should be carried out for the proposed oil and gas development off Cape Breton. By definition, such an analysis is long-term. Therefore, it would have to consider not only seismic testing and exploratory drilling, but would have to address the true costs and benefits of all stages of petroleum activity: exploration, development, production and decommissioning. What might appear to be a generator of economic activity in the short-term may have such great social and ecological costs (invisible in our current accounting system) that in the long-term a net negative impact is produced.
The Precautionary Principle, which flows directly from the underlying principle of sustainability, has been widely accepted provincially, nationally and internationally as the correct way to deal with uncertainty. When future impacts are unknown but potentially damaging and even irreversible, the precautionary principle should be used. This widely accepted dictum is enshrined in the Nova Scotia Environment Act and holds that scientific uncertainty must not be a cause for inaction when there is the potential for serious environmental damage.
There are many gaps in our current knowledge in regards to the Natural Capital that exists in and adjacent to the parcel areas. It is known that these biologically rich and productive areas provide critical habitat for countless species of birds, marine mammals, fish, reptiles as well as some species that have been listed by COSEWIC as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern. The functions and services provided by intact and biologically diverse ecosystems must be weighed against the actual economic benefits of oil and gas development.
Cumulative and sub-lethal effects from petroleum development should be further studied in order to determine the precise contribution of offshore oil and gas development to marine degradation.
There is very little currently protecting Canada's marine ecosystems and its associated biodiversity. A moratorium should be placed on oil and gas exploration in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sydney Bight areas until such time that Marine Protected Areas are established. At that point, any proposed petroleum exploration must be subject to a complete Environmental Assessment prior to the issuance of licences.
In regards to the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, these words of warning should be seriously considered by the Commissioner: "It is likely that large-scale pollution in ANY part of the Gulf would result in the eventual contamination of [the Magdalen Shallows] because of the semi-enclosed nature of the circulation pattern of the Gulf. On the basis of the incompatibility of oil pollution and living resources, minimizing the oil pollution risk would entail the banning of oil drilling, keeping the area free of trans-shipment terminals, refineries and petro-chemical plants, and minimizing tanker traffic." (Loutfi l973)
Any future Environmental Assessment regarding oil and gas development must address the impacts on species and ecosystems as a whole. Addressing Valued Ecosystem Components (VECs) only is not enough. They represent a very small fraction of potentially effected species whose ecological roles may be poorly understood, if known at all.
Any future Assessements must also address full impacts on social and local economic situations, and acknowledge that the economy is intertwined with natural and social capital.
The economic value of tourism and fishing to Cape Breton communities should be weighed against the economic value of inshore oil and gas development.
Alternative energies such as wind power should be explored as a potential industry for Cape Breton and an alternative to hydrocarbon development. Job for job, alternative renewable energy creates more benefits than hydrocarbon development.
The people living adjacent to a resource should have control over how or even if that resource is developed.
Case studies of the socio-economic and environmental effects of inshore and offshore oil and gas production in other small coastal areas should be undertaken.
For further information on this report, please contact either Jeff Brownstein at: 929-2757, firstname.lastname@example.org or Carlton Lunn at: 733-2626, email@example.com
Madame Commissioner, I want to thank you, on behalf of the Fishing Industry in Sydney Bight, for the way in which you have presided over these Hearings over these past 22 days. You have set a tone of cordiality and openness which is so much appreciated by us all. You have also given us a real sense of listening and appreciating our concerns concerns that we have so desperately wanted to express to anyone who would listen, these past three-and-a-half years. After all that time of frustration with agencies that we would have thought ought to be responsible and caring but certainly were not we finally found someone who would listen, and care.
A couple of points that did not receive much attention, during the past few weeks: Lobsters have not been the focus of much concern, even though that species is most certainly the backbone of our fishery. The fact that Hunt Oil plans to run a seismic survey 6km from shore would by no means mean that lobsters are not at risk. Besides that, the leases still come right to the shore line.
Also, you have heard that the Snow Crab fishery in Area 23 is outside of the lease areas, but the same animals are within the leases in their juvenile stages. This is important. This fishery was worth $41.5-million last year.
Personally, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of concern in the fishery that has been demonstrated over this issue. I'm sure that all the players in the fishery in the Sydney Bight area: Cape Breton and Victoria Counties, have never before been so united. It has taken a fair bit of resources to mount this campaign of concern and this support has come from pretty much every fishing group, every processor and buyer, and marine suppliers as well, all supporting this effort of the 4Vn Management Board.
The 4Vn Management Board will now make a commitment to bring all these players in our fishery together to see how we can expand the contribution of our fishery to the economy of Cape Breton. Now is a good time to see what we can do about processing more of our resource here; and explore what possibilities there might be with value-added processing.
We hope that people have gained an appreciation of the value of the fishery to our local economy. We are dedicated to conservation, and a sustainable fishery for generations to come.
More than anything, we hope that we finally get some accountability from our government agencies so that in the future we can avoid conflict.
We have heard much from those who support the proponents especially from some of our own government agencies about "Seizing the Opportunity". It's as if this gas under the sea if it's there will somehow slip away on its own, after being there for millions of years.
Suddenly the seabed off the shores of Nova Scotia is being opened up to Oil and Gas Exploration at a very fast rate. Meanwhile the fishery has been the most prominent, and sustainable, industry of this Province for hundreds of years. It has been pointed out by so many different fleets in the fishery that we are moving ahead at such a fast pace, that we are not doing the proper planning, or integrated management of fishing, oil and gas exploration, and other activities, that take place off of our shores. We are all in a learning process. Slowly, things might be improving, but we still have a long way to go.
We have heard many at these Hearings, who want these exploration activities to proceed right away, say that the CNSOPB are the regulators, and that we can trust them. On the other hand, those of us representing the fishing industry in these areas, are joined by many in the First Nations, whale-watchers, tourist operators, environmentalists, and other concerned citizens, in saying that we cannot trust the CNSOPB to really address our concerns, nor look after our best interests.
We have heard a lot about the Fisheries and Environmental Advisory Committee (FEAC) to the CNSOPB. There are no environmental organizations on this committee. They left because they felt they were being completely ignored by either the committee, the CNSOPB, or both. The Ecology Action Centre quit specifically because these leases were awarded without any consultation, nor adequate environmental assessments done before they went out in the Call for Bids.
FEAC , then, consists of representatives of various government departments, who may be well-meaning individuals, but have no real stake in what takes place; and some representatives of the fishing industry. Most of these latter, represent offshore (companies with very large vessels) or midshore (over 45 foot-vessels) fleets. These fleets have well-paid representatives, either in Halifax, or not too far away, that can attend these meetings. There is hardly any representation from the inshore fleets, who make up the overwhelmingly majority of fishermen in Nova Scotia. Anyone who knows much about fishermen's representation knows that the inshore fishermen's interests normally would never be put forward by the fleets of the larger vessels, or corporations. Quite frankly, we are usually very much at odds with each other.
The nature of most inshore fishermen's organizations is that their membership is voluntary. Their elected representatives are also volunteers, who are really quite overworked with the amount of meetings and issues they need to deal with in order to adequately serve their fishermen. Add to that are the facts that most meetings are in the winter, and a lot of travel is required. So it is unlikely that many inshore reps will attend meetings about oil and gas exploration, until they are really confronted with it potentially happening in their fishing areas. Then they will find themselves frustrated by the fact that they receive little support or sympathy from a committee, which in any case, doesn't know if it is even being listened to by the CNSOPB itself.
Having said this, FEAC itself has expressed concerns to the CNSOPB, which have yet to be addressed. For example, the members of FEAC have also expressed that there should be public input, as well as input from DFO and FEAC, before areas are put up in a Call for Bids. They have also expressed concern that the Board does not have a policy to limit overlapping and duplication of seismic surveys.
These concerns were expressed to the CNSOPB in a letter dated August 15, 2001, and were followed up in a meeting of some committee members with the Board shortly afterward. I am not aware of any actual response from the Board.
Even Debra Walsh, in her appearance for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, acknowledged that there are many issues that need to be worked out between the two different industries, which is why they set up the Petroleum Fisheries Liaison Group. The fisheries representation on this group is the same as FEAC. Another group, and lots more meetings, and a long way to go in sorting out many issues.
This is to point out that there are still many problems in the offshore. Many more could be listed, but time does not permit here. When you think of activity in the nearshore areas, things get infinitely more complicated. Fishing activity is much more intensive in the inshore areas. Many more fisheries, and many more people involved in them, will be impacted; and shallower, and semi-enclosed waters, make for greater risks of impact.
Nova Scotia's Energy Strategy acknowledges that "The federal government has primary responsibility for ocean resources through the Oceans Act and the Fisheries Act." The Ocean's Act calls for Integrated Management. We know that DFO's Oceans division has been quite overwhelmed with the workload resulting from so much activity in the offshore. While some government agencies are combining with the Oil and Gas industry to proceed with activity on a large scale; other government agencies with responsibilities for the environment, and the sustainable industries, and the people who depend upon them, do not have adequate time, nor resources, to really administer their responsibilities. It's an incredible case of lack of planning.
We have to stop doing everything backwards. Other countries have learned these lessons the hard way. Why do we have to keep making mistakes, rather than learn from others? We must start with Integrated Management, and we have to protect the environment, and the fishery, which has sustained so many for many hundreds of years.
We really have to take a good, hard look at all of the costs and benefits that would come from oil and gas activity in nearshore areas. The only way to answer the pressing questions in this regard is to commission a full GPI-type study, as described by Dr. Ronald Colman. Madame Commissioner, like it or not, this Public Review is about a lot more than these three licence areas. The implications will definitely be much broader. The issue of nearshore development everywhere is riding on your report. I don't mean merely to place additional burden on your already weighted-down shoulders. Rather, I mean to suggest to you that you recommend a way to clearly, and completely address the issues here. I believe that such a study, whatever the cost, will be justified in that it is the only way to address everything that is at stake here. The cost of the study will also be justified by it's applicability to any other area that may come into question, and we know there will be many others! Also, Integrated Management in coastal areas can only ultimately be addressed by such a study.
The cost of this study should be borne by our governments. The granting of these leases was a gross case of our two levels of government selling out our interests. It was only after years of pressure and protest that we got this Public Review Commission, and that we got DFO involved with the RAP in November. As I have pointed out, we have government agencies at odds here not just with us, but with each other, as well. They must find a way to address their responsibilities to us and to the environment.
Lack of the resources necessary to conduct this study, and to address Integrated Management adequately, must not be a reason to proceed before these matters are addressed. That is the essence of the Precautionary Approach.
Get ready, it's coming! The big bucks and jobs, jobs, jobs!
There has been a lot of talk recently about the oil and gas industry currently underway in Nova Scotia. Provincial politicians have been promoting it as a saviour to Nova Scotia's economic woes saying it means jobs, jobs, jobs. Everyone is trying to jump on this bandwagon, from proposed schools capable of granting high tech degrees to businessmen scouting various ports for the setting up of shore based facilities. We just can't wait for the big companies to find large fields of oil and/or gas in the exploratory areas both on and off our coastlines. Fields that are profitable enough will warrant drilling rigs. Rub your hands together folks, the boom times are coming!
But wait, is there no catch to this potential windfall? Well, yes, I'm afraid there is and itís called the fishing industry. You remember, the industry that is still a large part of the backbone of Nova Scotia's economy.
Somewhere along the line the powers that be in this province have neglected one of it's largest economic contributors, the fishery, a neglect that has the potential to do far more damage to the economy of this province than any possible benefits of oil and gas. As an example, currently, seismic work in the recently allocated exploratory areas off Cape Breton's coast is allowed to take place through areas and water columns where many organisms co-exist.
This seismic work is known to kill these same organisms within a certain distance of the sonic emitters that are used to gather the information about areas beneath the ocean's bottom. Some of these organisms are offspring of species such as lobster, while others are a food source for a variety of commercially viable species. A food source that, once depleted, could have devastating consequences for those species. Yet this seismic work is permitted at a time when these organisms are in their highest concentrations and where we, in the fishing industry, have sacrificed our time and personal incomes to put certain conservation measures into effect thereby ensuring the fisheries sustainability (measures to increase lobster egg production for example). Unfortunately, our government is jeopardizing all of that hard work and sacrifice for a gamble on an industry that has a limited life span and limited employment at best.
After successful pressure by fishermen's organizations to be allowed to sit on oil and gas regulatory boards, to date we have found these positions to be token representations that have no power to effect much needed changes in the current regulations. Just as happened in the collapse of the cod fishery, the advice and information of those most familiar with the fishery, the fishermen themselves, is being ignored and passed off as either unsubstantiated or alarmist. The few regulations that currently exist are woefully inadequate and don't properly address the fisheries concerns.
For a couple of months during the past summer of 1999 as an interpretive animator at Fortress Louisbourg National Historic Site, I had an opportunity to speak with quite a few visitors to the Maritimes who have come from right across North America, both north and south of the U.S. border. These people all seem to be somewhat familiar with oil and gas but totally uninformed about the fishery. All they hear is that the fishery is just about finished. But that is far from the truth. Our fishery is still vibrant and has the potential to provide far more employment than we could ever realize from oil and gas, yet this potential is suppressed. Why? That, as they say, is another story.
The collapse of the cod fishery has had some unforseen bonuses. Certain species such as snow crab and shrimp have greatly increased their biomass since one of their natural predators, the codfish, has declined. Tuna once again abound in our waters. We are just now beginning to see a slight improvement in lobster catches which we hope will continue through our conservation efforts. Are we, as a province then, seriously willing to jeopardize these and other fisheries? If the thinking of today's politicians holds, then the answer would have to be yes.
I also have to ask: why is government saying that if the codfish come back, then draggers will be allowed to partake in any future fishery? Surely one ought to think twice before allowing those same draggers that have already decimated the cod stock and its habitat, to once again wreak their havoc on the ocean's floor and any species they come in contact with.
When decisions like these are made by our bureaucrats and politicians then one should be very afraid of future oil and gas decisions. What I'm trying to say here is that bureaucrats rarely seem to have a handle on the portfolios that they are employed to advise their ministers about, and all too often seem to make decisions based on questionable statistics and corporate lobbying rather than on facts. Now that's scary!.
And surely the whole point of a Provincial Government, or even the Federal Government, and their various Departments of "experts", is to ensure that the best possible actions are made on behalf of all of the people, not merely an affluent or influential minority.
Personally, I can only hope that somewhere in the not too distant future, before its too late, the ears of the decision makers will finally open to the sounds made by those who have a real stake in all of this, Nova Scotians themselves.
You may surmise from this that I'm dead against oil and gas exploration and development. Not so. What I'm against is sacrificing one proven industry for the unknown of another. These two industries can co-exist but we have to proceed with caution, be open to compromise and reason and know when and where to say no.