Photo: So what's all this talk about oil and gas in the St. Lawrence?

Gaspe Peninsula, Anticosti Island (NASA, International Space Station Science, 09/07/10 (Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr).

By Jean-Patrick Toussaint, PhD and Science Project Manager

You may have heard all about shale gas exploitation in Quebec and the uproar it is causing among ENGOs and citizens. DSF-Quebec and David Suzuki supported other ENGOs in asking for a moratorium on the exploitation of this non-renewable resource until we have a clearer understanding of the impacts it could have on the environment and human health.

More recently, you may also have heard about offshore oil and gas exploration that is taking place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The St. Lawrence is one of Canada's most magnificent waterways, helping sustain millions of people, plants and animals. For those who live in Quebec's coastal regions, important economic and socio-cultural activities such as fishing and tourism rely on a healthy watershed. But offshore oil prospecting and drilling are putting the health of the St. Lawrence and those that depend on it at risk. That's why DSF is asking all levels of government to immediately impose a moratorium on exploration and drilling for the entire Gulf. Help prevent a spill in the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence by sending a letter to the government.

Here's a little background information to bring you up to speed on the issue:

In 2008, Corridor Resources, a Nova-Scotia-based company, acquired an exploration permit for part of the Old Harry oil/gas prospect from the Canada — Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Old Harry is located at the border of Quebec and Newfoundland, and is believed to contain approximately 2 billion barrels of oil/gas.

At the moment, only Newfoundland can exploit the resources at Old Harry as the C-NLOPB has jurisdiction on the part of Old Harry that sits in Newfoundland waters. Because there is no such board in Quebec, the National Energy Board has jurisdiction in those waters, and therefore Quebec cannot claim any rights on the resources found at Old Harry. Furthermore, Quebec cannot exploit any oil/gas in the St. Lawrence as a moratorium has been in place since 1998, protecting the estuary and the Gulf. This moratorium is due to end in 2012.

To explore the oil/gas potential at Old Harry (through seismic surveys), Corridor first had to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) that was presented to the C-NLOPB. Despite criticism by scientists, ENGOs and fishermen associations for its lack of proper documentation, the C-NLOPB granted Corridor an exploration permit on October 4th and seismic surveys began this fall.

In the meantime, results of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Quebec were released and indicated that the negative impacts of oil/gas exploitation in the estuary part of the St. Lawrence would far outweigh the benefits. Hence, a total ban on oil/gas exploitation in the estuary was adopted. But this decision doesn't unfortunately apply for the Gulf portion of the St. Lawrence.

The issue is very political and complicated and DSF is concerned about oil/gas drilling taking place soon in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We recently joined forces with others to form the St. Lawrence Coalition, a group of concerned ENGOs and citizens that are demanding such a moratorium.

As you can see, lots has happened in the last few months. There is still more to be done, but we will continue to campaign on this issue until our message is heard by all key players involved!

November 3, 2010

Read more

Post a comment

1 Comment

Jan 22, 2017
7:24 AM

Do you plan any updates (in Project/Ocean Keepers pages) to your very good but out of date reports on the situation in Gulf of St. Lawrence?

The Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia, a project of the South Shore Chapter of the Council of Canadians (both on FB), is working with the same issues. Your work on the Pacific Coast, Arctic, and in the St. Lawrence is invaluable and very helpful in guiding how we articulate our mission. We continue to develop public awareness and plan a meeting with organizational allies in the spring.

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »