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Groups call on Feds to protect Gulf of St. Lawrence

Sydney, Nova Scotia – A coalition of groups is working to raise awareness of the “phony” public consultations being hosted by the Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, (C-NLOPB), in Sydney today. The ‘consultations’ are part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) update of ‘Old Harry’ and Western NL’s Gulf waters, ordered by Environment Minister Peter Kent last year.

“Unfortunately, these alleged consultations are not transparent or democratic. What makes them even worse is that they appear to have little to do with the environment,” said Mary Gorman, of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “With tens of thousands of renewable jobs at stake in our tourism and fishing industries, the Gulf’s coastal communities deserve to be taken more seriously than this.”

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a significant Canadian ecosystem, home to over 2,000 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year round including numerous species at risk – such as the endangered blue whale, which has only 250 adults remaining in its North Atlantic population,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter. “Seismic testing has already been allowed in the migratory pathway of the blue whale by the C-NLOPB, which reflects the Board’s poor judgement.”

“We are not confident that this board and this so-called consultation will protect this ecosystem.  We have serious concerns that everything is being put in place for a rubber stamp approval of drilling in spite of the risks to the environment,” Fitzgerald added.

The coalition says these unelected offshore petroleum boards are in a conflict of interest as both promoters of development and protectors of the environment who do not have the scientific expertise to competently address complex marine ecosystems. The coalition is calling on the federal government to get rid of these unelected provincial petroleum boards in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and to reinstate federal marine protection for this sensitive inland sea.

“These phony consultations reflect the fallout from the Harper government’s deep and undemocratic cuts to Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over the past year,” said Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians. “The Gulf of St. Lawrence borders five provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Quebec. The fishery alone in the region has an estimated value of $1.5 billion annually.”

“With five provincial coastlines at risk, the Gulf of St. Lawrence is becoming the Northern Gateway Pipeline of the East,” said Giles. “Oil and gas exploration in the Gulf is a matter of national interest and deserves federal protection. It is time for the Harper administration to acknowledge the error of its ways and to reinstate federal laws protecting marine ecosystems.” 

“It is unacceptable for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to pass the buck on protecting our fishery to unelected provincial offshore petroleum boards,” said Herbie Nash, a fishery representative and inshore fisherman for 47 years. “Fishermen where I live had not even heard about this proposed development, nor have we been consulted. Where is the accountability in this process?”

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