Sable Island National Park Reserve

Sable Island is Canada's newest national park.

Sable Island was officially established as a national park reserve in June 2013.  This is the third national park in Nova Scotia and the first one established in Nova Scotia in over a half-century.

Sable Island is an ecological gem.  This remote and iconic sand island, located approximately 300 kilometres offshore from Halifax, is home to wild horses, immense sand dunes, the largest grey seal colony in the world, and species-at-risk including the roseate tern and the Ipswich savannah sparrow.


The threat


Sable Island is experiencing an increased interest in visitation, including quite recently a stop from a passing cruise ship.  This will pose significant problems for the sensitive ecosystems of Sable Island.  As part of the development of a management plan for the national park, CPAWS is proposing limits on the amount of visitors allowed on the island and a focus on off-island visitor experience, such as a Sable Island pavillion in downtown Halifax.

Oil and Gas Concerns

A legal ban on surface drilling on the island, and out to one nautical mile, is now in place.  This essentially places an existing policy ban in legislation, which is a step in the right direction. However, sub-surface horizontal drilling beneath the island is still allowed, as is "low impact" surface exploration which could include seismic testing.  Seismic testing has occurred on Sable Island in the past, which involved driving thumper trucks on to the beaches of Sable and digging listening devices into the sands.  CPAWS believes strongly that absolutely NO oil and gas exploration should occur on or beneath Sable Island.  The seas all around Sable are open for oil and gas exploration, so the sliver of sand that is Sable Island should be left alone.

What CPAWS is doing

CPAWS has been working collaboratively with the Sable Island Green Horse Society to protect Sable Island as the national park designation moves forward.  We've raised public awareness about the need for protecting Sable Island, met with key government officials to move the national park forward, testified at Parliamentary committees of the importance of protecting Sable, and worked hard to ban oil and gas activities from the island.  We are also working on a management proposal for the new national park that would cap the number of visitors to the sensitive islands to near current levels and, instead, promote off-island visitor experiences as the primary way for Canadians to experience this treasured island.  Much work remains to do.

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