To the editor,
On Feb 26, SOS Coalition members attended a Maritime Link energy meeting in Antigonish with Energy Minister Charlie Parker, Deputy Minister Murray Coolican and MLA Maurice Smith. We went there to ask Parker whether he will support a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
First, we asked Parker what he intends to do about the billion dollar Shell lease his government has approved on the Scotian Shelf. The seismic program for this lease, beginning next month, runs April to September each year for six years, during fishing seasons, spawning, blue fin tuna migration etc. It covers over a million hectares of ocean bottom. We’ve been told that in a few years, there will only be two populations left on the Scotian Shelf – gray seals and oil rigs. We have grave concerns our Gulf could be next.
Our coalition had already met privately for 25 minutes with Pictou County’s NDP MLAs, Ross Landry, Clarrie MacKinnon and Parker, about protecting our Gulf. But we were only able to cover one page of our presentation because these MLAs are not good listeners. Nor could we get them to take a stand on this matter of offshore development in semi-landlocked breeding grounds in waters with counter-clockwise currents that only flush like a toilet into the Atlantic once a year.
In contrast, MP Peter MacKay met with us for 80 minutes. He asked intelligent questions, acknowledged the danger of risking sensitive breeding areas and renewable multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries, only to access short-term fossil fuels; he agreed to follow up.
At the Antigonish meeting Parker, Coolican and Smith were asked if the NDP would support a moratorium in our Gulf. All three said a resounding “NO.” (It’s on the public record).
Subsequently, Parker has stated in the media (Advocate March 6) that in ‘reality,’ the province has made no decision on a moratorium in the Gulf.
While we are relieved the NDP are backtracking, in ‘reality,’ Parker signed a petition a decade ago for a moratorium in our Gulf when we were fighting shoreline leases on Cape Breton Island. Perhaps, because he knows the Gulf of St. Lawrence has the largest lobster production in the world. But “little or no information is available... on lobster larval distribution and settlement” according to DFO scientists.
Gulf fishers are also worried about herring if oil and gas proceeds. Since 20 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, there is still no herring fishery where that oil spill happened in Alaska.
DFO scientists have stated “every month of the year molting, spawning, egg hatching, larvae, feeding, migration, juveniles, adults, and planktonic stages are happening.” This is why Canada’s Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in their report on Canada’s Oceans Act (October 2001) stated “it may be prudent to consider placing this region under an oil and gas moratorium similar to that on the Georges Bank region.”
So why are we fighting this same battle 10 years later? It is ironic that before Parker was elected, he supported a moratorium. But now that he has the power as Energy Minister to implement one, he chooses to squander this privilege and unique opportunity to protect those who put their faith in him.
What a kick in the head to Gulf inshore fishers who have a long history as leaders in conservation of their own stocks. They do so, knowing that if they protect their fish, we will continue to have a fishery sustaining hundreds of coastal communities and tens of thousands of jobs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Unless, of course, it is destroyed by others.
Mary Gorman, Merigomish
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition