June 12, 2020
The C-NLOPB announced a new sector and a Call for Bids in its area delineated as the Eastern Region this week as part of its Scheduled Land Tenure process. This once again will focus expansion of oil and gas exploration on valuable fishing grounds as well as in a marine refuge that is closed to fishing
FFAW-Unifor members continue to be concerned about how additional exploration in our offshore will further affect the traditional fishing grounds of harvesters, whether it be through seismic activity, future areas closed to fishing or threat of an oil spill. Each of these concerns has a negative impact on harvesters and the potential environmental impacts are concerning to our members whose livelihoods depend on the health of fish resources, especially the recovering northern cod stock.
The inshore fishery has historically fished much of the shelf portion of the Grand Banks, where oil and gas development continues to expand year after year, pushing harvesters out of their traditional areas with no regard for the socio-economic impacts of this longstanding industry.
A large portion of the Eastern region is within the Northern Slope Marine Refuge, an area that is closed to fishing due to environmental protection reasons yet hypocritically allows for oil and gas exploration. Marine conservation targets affecting the fishing industry must be considered in this land tenure process. Marine conservation has to be meaningful and consistent in order to be effective, and double standard closures intended to focus on marine conservation must restrict all marine industrial activities.
Today, the four producing oil fields in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore are located on prime cod fishing grounds. Historical fishing rights have not been factored into the oil and gas growth equation. The loss of historical fishing grounds to safety zones, drilling and production activities, abandoned wells and even cable linkages, for example, all prevent future economic opportunity to fish in areas that the oil industry has already acquired offshore.
While it is understood that Environmental Assessments consider impacts to the environment, there must also be a comprehensive process in the federal and/or provincial assessment process to consider the socio-economic impacts of oil and gas activities on the fishing industry.