February 26, 1999
Massachusetts Fishermen Urge Extension of Georges
Bank Oil and Gas Moratorium
Members of the Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership (MFP) voted this week
to urge the Canadian government to extend their oil and gas moratorium on
Georges Bank. Without government action, the moratorium will expire at the
end of this year. The fishermen are concerned that failure to act now could
pave the way for seismic exploration and drilling as early as 2000 or 2001
with possible field development to follow.
David Bergeron of the MFP stated, "Whatever Canadians do on Georges Bank
impacts our fishermen. Less than a third of the Bank is currently controlled
by Canada, but currents could carry any contaminants into US waters. We also
fear that critical spawning and nursery grounds could be damaged by oil and
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recently
sent a strongly worded recommendation to the Georges Bank Review Panel giving
their reasons why the Canadian Moratorium should be extended. The report,
"Even if contamination could be contained, it would adversely affect the many
species of fish and marine mammals that use both the Canadian and US portions
of Georges Bank at some point in their life cycle."
On June 12, 1998, President Clinton extended the Moratorium on new oil and
gas operations on the US continental shelf until 2012. In a statement at the
National Ocean Conference in Monterey he declared, "Our oceans are the key to
the life support systems for all creatures on this planet." In the case of
Georges Bank, it is the life support system for the entire Gulf of Maine and
all who depend on it for their livelihoods.
The MFP position is also in accord with the New England Fishery Management
Council; whose Chairman, Joseph Brancaleone, stated, "American fishermen and
their communities are already being asked to make sacrifices to improve stock
rebuilding and the risks associated with oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank
could confound those sacrifices. It appears that while the petrochemical
industry would receive most of the short-term gains from any drilling that
occurs in the area, it is the Canadian and American Fishermen and their
communities that are expected to absorb the potentially significant and
long-term costs associated with exploration and drilling activities."
The future of New England's fishermen depends on a health Georges Bank
ecosystem. We simply cannot afford a mistake, and the history of the oil
industry virtually guarantees that mistakes will be made.
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