Oil and gas platforms don't belong in the Laurentian Channel

WWF-Canada launches campaign to challenge lack of regulations in Canada's newest marine protected area

HALIFAX, June 23, 2017 /CNW/ - Proposed regulations released today for the Laurentian Channel marine protected area (MPA), which allow oil and gas exploration and exploitation in 80 per cent of the area, were strongly condemned today by WWF-Canada because of the high risk of harm posed to wildlife in the area.

The Laurentian Channel is a critical migration route for whales moving in and out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and is an important foraging area for endangered leatherback turtles. WWF-Canada has launched this public campaign to strengthen regulations to exclude oil and gas industry in what will be Canada's largest MPA.

About the Laurentian Channel

  • The channel is an underwater valley spanning the entrance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the edge of Newfoundland's continental shelf.
  • The proposed MPA is 11,619 sq. km., the largest in Canada at this time, twice the size of Prince Edward Island.
  • The Laurentian Channel and Slope were previously identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area.
  • The channel is part of a summer feeding area for migratory whales, including humpback and minke whales, as well as endangered blue whales and endangered North Atlantic right whales.
  • The MPA's conservation objectives include protecting endangered leatherback sea turtles, sea pens, threatened Northern wolffish, porbeagle sharks, smooth skates and black dogfish.

Risks to species

  • Proposed regulations will allow oil and gas exploration and extraction in more than 80 per cent of the marine protected area with directional drilling (non-vertical wells) allowed over much of the rest of the site.
  • Drilling operations disturb the seafloor and increase sedimentation in the water, which damages sensitive species such as sea pens and cold-water corals.
  • Seismic blasts cause physical injuries to whales and can scare wildlife away from important habitats.
  • Oil spills, though rare, would devastate this area.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada determined that potential oil and gas activities posed too high a risk to be permitted within nearby MPAs such as St. Anns Bank and the Gully, but the Laurentian Channel will remain open for business.

The campaign

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, said:
"Oil and gas extraction is not compatible with conservation and should never be permitted inside a protected area. National parks on land have long had this in place as a minimum standard. It seems outrageous that a marine area could be designated as protected and yet an oil and gas platform could still be placed there, but that's exactly what going to be allowed in the Laurentian Channel unless the government of Canada changes course. The channel is a critical migration route for some of our most endangered whales, and oil and gas exploration and extraction threatens them with noise pollution, habitat disturbance and physical injury from seismic blasting. We will challenge these proposed regulations through every possible means, and we ask Canadians to join us in expressing their dissent."

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

SOURCE WWF-Canada

For further information: Philippe Devos: Director, communications and media, pdevos@wwfcanada.org, +1 (416) 453-0092.

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