MEDIA RELEASE: Conflict Brews At-Sea as Drill Rig Takes Over Prime Crab Grounds
July 21, 2023
Crab harvesters on the Avalon Peninsula are calling out the oil and gas industry as the Hercules drill rig, operated by ExxonMobil in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin, is in direct conflict with traditional prime fishing grounds. Despite vocal opposition from FFAW-Unifor throughout the consultation process with the regulatory body, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), the Board and Exxon proceeded with the drill operations during peak fishing time in an especially difficult year for harvesters.
“Our members feel this brewing spatial conflict is representative of the continuous disregard for the fishing industry. Expansion of the oil and gas industry needs to be considered alongside the fishery, not in priority to it,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty. “We made the Board aware of our objections and the importance of avoiding a multitude of harvesting activities, including crab fishing, occurring in the same region back when the project was first discussed in 2015. We have continuously made the Board aware of the importance of the seasonality of operations and how the magnitude of impact on the fishery is wholly dependent on this,” Pretty explains.
The Union that represents all professional fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for a dramatic overhaul in the planning and procedures within the C-NLOPB and amongst offshore operators.
“Providing little to no advance of drilling programs, their precise location and associated safety zones is not considered a mitigative measure and there should be no expectation that fish harvesters will willingly alter fishing plans to prevent space-use conflicts,” says affected 3L fish harvester and FFAW-Unifor Executive Board member, Nelson Bussey. “Time and time again our historical fishing rights have not been factored into the oil and gas growth equation. The C-NLOPB has allowed offshore exploration activities to occur in areas with significant recent history of intensive fishing effort,” Bussey explains.
“The continuous disregard for our industry can happen no more. Harvesters are extremely frustrated and feel an at-sea protest may be the only way forward in sending the message our membership will not allow the C-NLOPB to enable one industry growth at the expense of another,” concludes Pretty.