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Bottlenose whales off Nova Scotia coast threatened by seismic testing for oil & gas

Photo by Pierre Jaquet, Flickr

The Council of Canadians South Shore chapter is encouraging people to join their campaign to protect offshore Nova Scotia.

In October 2015, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board granted approval to Shell to drill two oil wells on the edge of the Scotian Shelf, a geological formation located in the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Nova Scotia. The Canadian Press has reported, “The Scotian Shelf includes some of the province’s richest fishing grounds for haddock, and a huge spawning area for lobster.” The fisheries industry is worth over $1 billion to the economy of Nova Scotia and there are major concerns about the impact of this drilling and potential spills.

Now Radio Canada International reports, “Scientists have found a new population of Northern bottlenose whales off Canada’s east coast and are worried they will be harmed by seismic testing for oil and gas. An older population of Northern bottlenose whales off the coast of the province of Nova Scotia has been studied for about 25 years by scientists including Hal Whitehead, researcher and professor of biology at Dalhousie University.”

The article highlights, “Whales are known to navigate and communicate using sound. A few months ago, Whitehead and others recorded general sound in the water up and down the Grand Banks, which is a shallow shelf that extends off Canada’s Atlantic coast before dropping steeply. When they processed the sound, they heard the new population of these whales, but they also heard seismic testing going on close to them. [Whitehead] says beaked whales like the Northern bottlenose whale may be particularly affected [by this sound].”

The RCI report also notes, “One of two populations of Northern bottlenose whale is listed as ‘endangered’ and the other is ‘of special concern’ under Canada’s Species At Risk Act, a law designed to protect animals.”

Beyond the threat to whales and the risk of oil spills, offshore drilling contributes to climate change. Because of the long lead times associated with offshore drilling, it is inconsistent with reducing carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.

A new United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report highlights that Old Town Lunenburg – a world heritage site located on the south shore of Nova Scotia – is at risk because of climate change. CBC reports, “Rising seas could put some of its coastal land permanently underwater, and lead to damage to buildings and roads from storm surges and flooding.”

To join this campaign, please contact the chapter at southshore.cpons@gmail.com