C-NLOPB ‘waking up’ to concerns over impact of offshore seismic activity: FISH-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, Feb. 22, 2019

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is frustrated the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board isn’t prepared to suspend offshore seismic work, but encouraged the offshore oil and gas regulator is waking up to concerns.

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“Ottawa takes a precautionary approach to fisheries management — which means being cautious when science is uncertain — but there’s nothing precautionary about allowing seismic to continue until the potential risks are understood,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The hypocrisy doesn’t escape inshore harvesters.”

In a Jan. 8th letter, FISH-NL implored the C-NLOPB to proceed with extreme caution and immediately suspend seismic work off Newfoundland and Labrador until the activity can be reevaluated.

FISH-NL pointed to recent research out of Tasmania that concluded the intense acoustic signals used in oil and gas exploration caused significant damage to zooplankton populations that are critical elements of the marine food chain — and seismic activity in waters around Newfoundland and Labrador has increased dramatically in recent years. 

In a Feb. 13th response, Scott Tessier, Chair and CEO of the C-NLOPB, said the board is “fully aware” of the Tasmania research and has been in direct contact with the Australian offshore regulator —  the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Tessier pointed out the C-NLOPB relies on DFO to provide advice on the conservation and protection of fisheries and marine ecosystems.

“DFO's assessment is that it's not possible to establish a correlation between recent changes in plankton abundance throughout Atlantic Canada and seismic surveys carried out in parts of the region,” Tessier wrote.

He added discussions are underway within the federal government “on reviewing and potentially updating” the Statement of Canadian Practice with respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment, which is incorporated in the C-NLOPB’s geophysical, environmental and geotechnical program guidelines.

FISH-NL also raised concerns about the “cozy” relationship between oil companies, the FFAW-Unifor, and the C-NLOPB.

The FFAW-Unifor has been receiving at least $50,000 a year from oil companies to fund its petroleum industry liaison position, along with another $25,000 a year from the C-NLOPB, which would appear to be a blatant conflict of interest.

Tessier said the C-NLOPB discontinued its $25,000 annual allocation in 2018 “in light of new approaches developed by governments to participant funding programs and evolving stakeholder engagement approaches by governments and the Board.”

“That seems to be a ’round about way of confirming the conflict existed and has been addressed,” said Cleary. “That just leaves the conflict between oil companies and the FFAW.”

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February 13, 2019

Mr. Ryan Cleary President
FISH-NL
P.O. Box 1064
St. John's, NL A1C 5M5

Dear Mr. Cleary:

Thank you for your recent correspondence, which focused on issues related to seismic surveys and the fishery.

At the outset, I can again assure you that safety and environmental protection remain paramount in all Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) decisions. Operators must meet a broad range of legislative and regulatory requirements before a seismic survey, or any offshore activity for that matter, is authorized.

In my letter to you dated July 17, 2017 (which is attached for ease of reference), I communicated the key elements ofthe C-NLOPB's regulatory review process, which help ensure that seismic surveys are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The elements of that robust regulatory regime, as articulated in the attached letter, remain in place today.

In your recent letter you reference a study of the potential impact of seismic survey noise on zooplankton in Tasmania. The C-NLOPB is fully aware of this study and has been in direct contact with the Australian offshore regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

You also refer to some findings by scientists of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) about recent trends in plankton abundance in Atlantic Canada. As I indicated in my July 2017 letter, the C-NLOPB relies on DFO to provide us with advice on the conservation and protection of fisheries and marine ecosystems. DFO's assessment is that it's not possible to establish a correlation between recent changes in plankton abundance throughout Atlantic Canada and seismic surveys carried out in parts of the region.

In your letter, you reference the Statement of Canadian Practice with respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment, which is incorporated in the C-NLOPB Geophysical,
Geological, Environmental and Geotechnical Program Guidelines. DFO's view, which we share, continues to be that the
Statement of Canadian Practice provides effective guidance on minimizing impacts to marine life. By way of update, DFO advises that discussions are underway in the federal government on reviewing and potentially updating this Statement of Canadian Practice.

You also referenced the Petroleum Industry Liaison position at the FFAW-Unifor. As we communicated
to you previously, the C-NLOPB had for several years provided a $25,000 annual contribution to One Ocean, which had been allocated to the Petroleum Industry Liaison position. The final such allocation by the C-NLOPB fo
r this purpose was in 2018. Our decision to discontinue the funding was made in light of new approaches developed by governments to participant funding programs and evolving stakeholder engagement approaches by governments and the Board.

I understand you have been in contact with C-NLOPB staff to request a briefing on 2019 seismic programs and that a session is being scheduled for early April, when we should have a better sense of the activity level for the 2019 season.

I appreciate your interest in these matters.

Regards,

Scott Tessier Chair and CEO