OIL & GAS AND SUPERPOWERS
Published on Dec 04 2018
“The most important thing that we extract from the ocean is not oil and gas or fish, it’s us.“ In light of current news, I think we could all use a reminder of this. These wise words are from world-renowned oceanographer and explorer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, who I had the opportunity to both hear speak and meet (dream come true!) during her recent visit to Halifax for the G7 events.
Oil and gas leases overlap with conservation area
If you have been reading the news lately, you will have noticed quite a few articles about oil and gas on the Atlantic coast, particularly off Newfoundland and Labrador. On November 7th, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) announced lease areas for oil and gas exploration that overlap with the Northeast Channel conservation area. This an ecologically important area, especially for cold-water corals, which many species depend on for habitat. If oil and gas activity occurs in this area, meaningful protection can no longer be achieved and it sets an awful precedent for future protected areas. It also undermines important relationships, such as those with the fishing industry. Several environmental groups, including CPAWS, have publicly stated our concern. Not surprisingly, there has also been pushback from fish harvesters too.
During Dr. Sylvia Earle’s talk she reminded the audience that it is does matter to give nature a break wherever we can. Right now, Canada and countries around the globe have committed to protecting 10% of their ocean area by 2020. That leaves 90% of the ocean open to heavy industrial activity. Surely we can give nature a break in that 10% that we are setting aside for conservation.
Oil and gas activity and conservation are not compatible
There are many reasons why oil and gas activity is not compatible with marine protection. There have also been countless oil spills both within Canada and across the globe, that have demonstrated just how damaging spills are to ecosystems and coastal communities. Given such extensive knowledge and evidence, you would think that we would have legislation and polices in place to match it. Unfortunately, we do not. The current arrangement allows for oil and gas to undermine conservation posing a huge problem for effective marine conservation on Canada’s Atlantic coast. This mismatch between our current knowledge and policies is something else that Dr. Earle highlighted as problematic across the globe.
The Northeast Channel is not the first conservation area to be threatened by oil and gas activity. To understand just how complicated oil and gas activity off of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador is, I recommend reading this article which provides a good overview.
The largest oil spill in Newfoundland history
About a week after C-NLOPB’s announcement, an oil spill of the coast of Newfoundland caused an estimated 250,000 litres (that’s equivalent to more than 704,225 cans of Coke) of crude oil to leak into the ocean. This marks the largest oil spill in Newfoundland and Labrador history and it has now been deemed impossible to clean up by the regulatory board that overseas the provinces offshore activities. This is devastating. Crude oil is a poisonous substance that does not just disappear. An oil spill of any size, and most definitely one of this magnitude, has huge impacts on marine life, such as seabirds. As of November 22nd, at least 15 oiled birds have been spotted, but there are likely many more. Some scientists expect that that number is likely in the 1000s.
What is your ocean super power?
All of these headlines and news, can really bring you down and leave you wondering what you can do for the ocean. At the end of Dr. Earle’s talk, someone asked, “What advice would you give someone who wants to make a difference for the ocean?” Her response was to look in the mirror because everyone has a superpower.
With that, I challenge you to look in the mirror and remind yourself of your superpower. Maybe it is teaching, art or swimming, whatever it is, you can use it to make a difference for the ocean. Perhaps your superpower today is simply sharing just how magnificent and important the oceans are for all life on Earth with someone you know today. After all as Dr. Earle says,“ if you don’t know, you can’t care.”
Thanks for reading