Fast Forward Initiative Eliminates Fishery Considerations from Oil and Gas Expansion Process
June 5, 2020
Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan announced new measures yesterday that will speed up the assessment process for oil and gas expansion, effectively eliminating fishery consultations in the process. Fish harvesters continue to call for increased consultations – rather than less – when it comes to expanding oil and gas operations on their valuable fishing grounds.
“Each year the fishing industry is expected to adjust and adapt to the expansion of oil and gas, but there’s a blatant lack of consideration for the impacts it has on the fishing industry or the marine environment. Instead of improving consultations with affected ocean users, this new assessment process eliminates it,” says Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.
As was noted by FFAW-Unifor during the consultation process, the socio-economic impacts to other ocean users, namely the commercial fishing industry, are not being factored into offshore oil and gas exploratory drilling project assessments. Specifically, there is no requirement for drilling proponents to consult with the commercial fishery industry prior to submitting paperwork for exemption from the federal review process with this new regulatory change.
The potential for exploratory drilling to interact with and directly affect the fishing industry is highly dependent on the nature, location, timing, activities and the equipment or gear involved. There are currently a number of exploratory leases in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador that overlap with valuable commercial fishing grounds.
“The socio-economic considerations of the fishery must be taken into account when determining new oil and gas exploration areas. The fishery is a $1 billion-dollar industry that sustains rural Newfoundland and Labrador, employing tens of thousands of people in our province. Yet time and time again, this is overlooked by our governments,” says Sullivan.
Oil and gas proponents do not fully understand the considerable amount of fishing activity that is conducted in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore. Early and effective consultation enables the proponent to understand the scope of concerns that fish harvesters have with oil and gas exploration and development in specific areas. With respect to exploratory drilling, the main concern is the potential displacement of harvesters from highly productive fishing grounds.
Early consultation allows for additional factors to be considered by the proponent from the onset of their project. Exploratory drilling programs need to be well planned to strategically avoid certain areas at certain times due to weather, wave heights, ice, etc. This operational planning must also fully consider open fishing seasons, and with the newest changes announced this week, that will not happen.
“Fish harvesters are demanding that the government and the oil and gas industry respect the fishery and the role it plays in this province. The government is saying fish harvesters don’t matter, that their traditional fishing grounds don’t matter, and that their communities don’t matter. We won’t stand for that,” concludes Sullivan.
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