Online edition of Shunpiking
Thursday, Jan 01, 2004
From our archives

"Fishermen say NO to oil-gas exploration on Cape Bretonís coastline"

The following is a press release issued by the Maritime Fishermenís Union and the North of Smokey Fishermenís Association on September 7, 2000

Fishermenís representatives, from the major organizations located in the Cape Breton fishing region known as 4Vn, met on September 5th, 2000 to discuss the proposed Oil/Gas exploration activities planned for our coastline by Hunt Oil Ltd. of Texas, USA. Representatives expressed grave concern for the fish stocks and marine eco-system in the 4Vn area that will be affected by various phases of Oil/gas development activities. The 4Vn region is home to many marine species including Lobster, Snow Crab, Herring, Mackerel, as well as 4Vn Cod and 4VsW White Hake which have been under moratorium since the mid 1990ís. The 4Vn region is also home to the Gulf region fish stocks that over-winter in the 4Vn from November to April each year.

This would be the first attempt at Oil & Gas exploration in inshore waters of Nova Scotia. The impacts are far more complex and affect more fisheries that in areas farther offshore.

Major studies are currently underway in the 4Vn region, namely: the 4Vn Sentinel Survey and the Fish Migration Survey to determine the abundance and movements of 4Vn and 4T Cod stocks. Osborne Burke, President of the North of Smokey Fishermenís Association, states that "these studies are extremely important to the fishery and are in jeopardy as a result of the planned Oil/gas activities. Not only would thousands of dollars of funding be lost but more importantly, the loss of valuable data from these surveys could seriously impact stock re-building efforts for the future". He continues to say that "over two thousand fishermen and crew members are directly employed in this region as well as truckers, processors, fish buyers and related service industries. Annual revenues generated in this sustainable industry amount up to 100-million dollars."

The initial stage of Oil/gas development is the seismic survey. The seismic survey consists of a vessel towing a series of air guns, of approximately 1000 metres, that emit loud blasts at planned intervals. Hunt Oil is now proposing a November 1st start date for their seismic program.

The current Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Boardís (CNSOPB) process of determining leases of near shore parcels is seriously flawed says Burke. The fishing industry, as a key stakeholder is not notified of the proposed Oil/gas exploration until after the fact. "Itís similar to waking up one day and reading that your property has been sold".

Jeff Brownstein, President of MFU Local 6, states that the "so called consultation via the Fisheries Advisory Committee of the CNSOPB is a farce. I have been a member of the Advisory Committee for over two years speaking to this issue and find that neither the CNSOPB, nor either Federal nor Provincial Departments of Fisheries, want to hear the concerns of inshore fishermen."

The fishing associationsí representatives were unanimous in their support to stop any and all proposed Oil/Gas exploration activities in the 4Vn region. They state that they are not prepared to allow a sustainable natural resource, such as the fishing industry, to be sold off to a company based in Texas, USA or any other Oil/Gas company. "The Oil/gas companies do not care about Cape Breton fishermen and women and their children who may wish to continue to generate a sustainable income many years after the Oil/gas industry have left the area", says Burke. Burke continues to say that "one only has to look at a newspaper to see the value of a barrel of oil, however what value do we place on a 'barrelí of ecosystem."

Fishermenís representatives voted unanimously to immediately cancel any further discussion with Hunt Oil consultants at this time since preliminary discussions with these same consultants seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

"The precautionary principle states that in the absence of valid information indicating minimal impacts on the marine environment and species that inhabit its ecosystem, the prudent action is 'no action at allí", says Jeff Brownstein.

A public meeting of all fishermen affected by Oil/gas exploration, within the 4Vn region, has been scheduled for the Steel Workersí Hall, Sydney at 10:00am September 19th, 2000. This meeting will discuss the next course of action that the fishermen will take.

For more information please contact: North of Smokey Fishermenís Association

Ph: (902) 285-2276