FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, April 17th, 2019
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) condemns the decision by the Dwight Ball government to spend another $20 million this year on seismic blasting in the province’s offshore.
“The Grand Banks are desperate for a break,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Most commercial fish stocks are in hard shape, and plankton numbers are way down. Ottawa preaches caution with fisheries management, and Dwight throws that caution over the side of a seismic boat.”
The 2019 provincial budget includes $20 million for seismic work, $8 million less than than the year before. Since 2011, the province has spent $179.4 million to gather seismic data, which is used to spur private interest in the offshore oil industry.
As many as four seismic vessels are expected to operate off Newfoundland and Labrador in the coming months. The process involves towing air guns that blast compressed air through the water and into the seabed to determine whether oil and gas deposits are below.
Seismic surveys produce the loudest human-made sounds in the ocean, with the noise travelling up to 3,000 kilometres. Harvesters have long said that seismic blasts interrupt the migratory pattern of fish stocks, and a 2017 Australian study found that seismic testing can destroy plankton, the basis of the marine food chain.
In December, a senior scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John’s revealed that plankton productivity in waters around Newfoundland and Labrador has plunged by 50 per cent in the past four or five years.
Three of DFO’s four science briefings so far this year on northern cod, caplin and shrimp noted that declining plankton numbers are having an impact on stocks.
“The Grand Banks are on their knees, and the Dwight Ball government could care less,” said Cleary.
In January, FISH-NL called on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which regulates the offshore industry, to suspend seismic work until more research is carried out. The Board rejected the request.