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Seismic Testing to Sneak Into BC's Pacific Waters? PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 31 March 2005 16:00
Seismic Testing to Sneak Into BC's Pacific Waters?

Action Press Release from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Victoria Chapter - March 30      http://www.wildernesscommitteevictoria.org/index.php

April 15 DEADLINE: Please write-in to the federal public commentary process about proposed new marine seismic testing regulations that include BC's coast!

 The federal Liberal government has recently released proposed regulations on seismic testing for coastal oil and gas development in Canadian waters, the very weak and dangerous "Statement of Canadian Practice on Seismic Noise in the Marine Environment". The proposed regulations in this document ignore current science, violate the precautionary approach of our Oceans Act, will put the health of marine life at serious risk, and will act as a "foot in the door" strategy for the BC government to eventually get seismic testing underway off our beautiful wild Pacific coast. The public only has until April 15 to comment on their proposal. Please take 5 minutes and write-in your comments - it's KEY that YOU do this right now.

Seismic testing, in which shock waves are blasted by underwater air guns through vast areas of the ocean in order to locate potential oil deposits below the ocean floor, is one of the most environmentally damaging activities for marine life. It has been implicated in fatal whale strandings, large-scale fish kills, driving whales and fish away from their feeding areas and migration routes, and seriously harming crabs, squid and other marine life.

The draft standards for seismic testing are national in scope, and the BC Liberal government slyfully signed onto the proposed standards with the federal government. If it goes through, it'll set up a regulatory framework that could then pave the way for the federal government (under pressure by the BC Liberal government) to issue seismic testing permits for the BC coast.

Allowing seismic testing is a "foot in the door" strategy to eventually get the moratorium lifted. After companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do seismic testing to locate potential oil deposits, it would be very difficult at that point for the government to deny them the right to drill "mere" exploratory wells to confirm the presence of these deposits. The moratorium would have to be lifted to do so. Afterwards, full-on commercial drilling would follow.

To read the Statement of Canadian Practice on Seismic Noise, cut and paste the entire following address:

http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/canwaters-eauxcan/infocentre/media/seismic-sism ique/statement_e.asp

For more info on seismic testing and other key marine issues in BC, check out the Living Ocean Society's excellent online library at: http://www.livingoceans.org/library/index.shtml#offshore

Some problems with the proposed "Statement of Canadian Practice on Seismic Noise in the Marine Environment" include:

- The regulations shouldn't include BC's Pacific Coast, where there is a moratorium currently in place to prevent oil and gas development. Why consider allowing oil exploration off the BC coast when oil drilling is not allowed? The only reason is to use seismic testing as a "wedge in the door" to eventually get the moratorium lifted.

- The proposed mitigation measures are extremely weak and lacks the scientific evidence to back up the assumptions upon which these measures are based. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the biological and ecological effects of seismic testing on fish, invertebrates, or marine mammals are expected to be low. Such assumptions, as stated in the draft document, are entirely inaccurate and are not supported by international science, nor the science articulated by Fisheries and Oceans’ own research.

- For example, a recent study carried out by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last fall found that female snow crabs showed short-term and long-term damage such as hemorrhaging and detached reproductive organs after a 12-day seismic experiment off Cape Breton on Canada’s east coast. This summer, international science was presented to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) illustrating the overwhelming evidence that noise from offshore oil and gas seismic testing and military sonar tests are causing serious short-term and long-term damage to whales.

- The Oceans Act states very clearly that planning in the ocean needs to take a precautionary approach, a commitment to err on the side of caution. Yet these proposed measures do the exact opposite. Allowing seismic testing in areas of biological significance, spawning, and whale feeding and breeding regions would be ignoring international scientific evidence that suggests the need for precaution.

- Within these draft guidelines there is a blatant acceptance that it is appropriate for marine mammals and fish to be killed by the practice of seismic testing, as long as they are not an ‘endangered mammal’ or impacts do not occur at the population level. The BC coastal waters under consideration for offshore oil and gas support many marine mammal species including seven ‘threatened’ species, and three species of special concern. The critical habitat requirements of the 29 marine mammal species in these waters have not been adequately assessed and very little baseline data has been collected on most of these species.

- The process to develop the Statement of Canadian Practice document involved input from industry and the provincial Ministries of Energy and Mines, but it lacked input from Environment Canada and any of the provincial ministries responsible for protecting the environment. The process has shown a lack of transparency, with very little involvement from the conservation community and independent scientists. As a result, the outcome has ignored national and international science that identifies many potential impacts from seismic testing, calls for further research, and the need for precaution.

IT'LL ONLY TAKE 5 MINUTES! Write a brief letter to the public commentary process by April 15 - your letter is crucial to keep our Pacific coast free from the destruction of seismic shock waves.

Let the federal Liberal government know whether or not you:

- Think they should completely discard or scrap their proposed "Statement of Canadian Practice on Seismic Noise in the Marine Environment" - Believe the proposed seismic regulations will be used as a precursor for the federal government, under pressure from the BC Liberal government, to issue seismic testing permits for BC's Pacific waters. BC's waters shouldn't even be considered for seismic testing as there is a moratorium on oil and gas development there. Why explore for oil if it can't be extracted? - Believe that the document lacks scientific credibility, adequate peer review, and fails to consider key scientific literature on the impacts of seismic testing. It also downplays the significance of the ecological impacts of seismic testing. - Believe the standards are dangerously weak and ineffective.

Send your letter to:

To: Prime Minister Paul Martin This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CC: Honourable Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CC: Mr. Daniel McDougall, Director General, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CC: Mr. Roger Wysocki, Oceans Policy Strategist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CC: Honourable St?phane Dion, Minister of the Environment This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

As importantly, write to your local federal Member of Parliament (MP) who you can find at: http://www.gc.ca/directories/direct_e.html

Please commit to getting one friend or family member to write a letter, too!

Thanks for helping keep BC's Wild Coast safe!

- Pearl Gottschalk and Ken Wu, Western Canada Wilderness Committee

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 March 2005 16:00

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