Editor: It is no surprise to learn that the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board is recommending that offshore oil and gas drilling proceeds in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. This organization is, after all, a petroleum board and its dual responsibilities to oversee environmental regulation and promote fossil fuel development continue to conflict with each other.
Unfortunately, the petroleum industry’s push to extract fossil fuels from gulf waters seriously jeopardizes thousands of marine species and our quality of life in Atlantic Canada. The Gulf of Saint Lawrence is one of the world’s largest marine nurseries, providing a vital starting ground for thousands of marine species, including many that are commercially important. Herring, lobster, rock crab, mackerel, tuna and ground fish support a $1.5-billion fishing economy within the confines of this inland sea. The gulf also provides important habitat for threatened species such as Atlantic salmon, cod, fin whales and the endangered blue whale.
Commercial and threatened species alike will be adversely affected by offshore drilling in this fragile area. Offshore drilling pollutes the marine environment regardless of whether a major spill happens or not. The Newfoundland offshore petroleum board was recently forced to concede that 337 smaller spills have taken place at offshore platforms in Newfoundland waters since 1997. If a large spill did take place in the gulf, very little could be done about it during much of the year. On average, only 15 per cent of the oil released in a spill can be collected. This small success rate would most likely be diminished further due to the high winds and sea ice that are frequently present in the gulf. Finally, gulf species are already threatened by a warming climate and ocean acidification that has increased by ninety percent in this sea since the 1930s. This unique ecosystem which sustains abundant marine life in eastern Canada as well as important local economies should not be put at greater risk at this time.
(member of Save Our Seas and Shores P.E.I.)