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July 28, 1999

Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership Applauds Canadian Recommendation to Extend Oil Moratorium on Georges Bank

The Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership commends the recommendation of the Georges Bank Review Panel to continue the Canadian Oil and Gas Moratorium. We agree that "Georges Banks is an area of exceptional ecological value" and "requires special consideration to ensure its conservation and protection." Also, we concur with their assessment that "Conservation and protection of habitat and of biological diversity, productivity, and resources, especially the fisheries, should be the highest priority for Georges."

The Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership (MFP) is an umbrella organization of 18 commercial fishing associations representing all geographic and gear sectors of the Massachusetts fishing industry. The MFP is also sponsor of the Fishing Partnership Health Plan (FPHP) which covers about 1400 lives in the fishing community.

Massachusetts fishermen encourage the Government of Canada to follow the lead of the Premier in Nova Scotia who recently announced that the provincial government would accept the Panel's recommendation. In addition, we strongly urge that action be taken to extend the Moratorium until at least 2012 for the following primary reasons (excerpted from the June 1999, Review Panel Report):

Seismic - "There was no information presented on the possible effects of seismic surveys on spawning behavior, on the behavior of adult lobsters, or scallops, or on pelagic fish. Based on a small number of studies and some observed behavior, there were also unresolved questions about whether seismic surveys cause reduced catches of fish because the animals move away from the area, hide or change their migration patterns. There was also very sparse information presented on the effects of seismic on marine mammals."

Drilling Discharges- "Drilling muds and other discharges pose some hazards to marine life and productivity." In this regard, we find some of the data contained in the recent DFO report on "The Possible Environmental Impacts of Petroleum Exploration Activities on the Georges Bank Ecosystem" particularly disturbing. For example:

"The effects thresholds had to be estimated for barite [a major constituent of water-based drilling mud] as laboratory experiments observed zero growth at the lowest concentration tested (0.5 mg/l)."

Produced water - "In a recent laboratory study of produced water from a Scotian Shelf well, concentrations ranging from 0.9% to 22% of produced water caused death in half the fish larvae, and fertilization success of scallops eggs was significantly affected at concentrations of produced water of 1% and above."

Risks- "If commercial quantities of oil and gas were discovered, development and production would eventually follow; it would be inappropriate to permit the associated risks on Georges." Finally, "In considering risks to Georges Bank, the unacceptability of potential harm is the most important factor."

Given these alarming findings it would be inexcusable to allow exploration and drilling before at least 2012. Considering, the profound gaps in our understanding of the Georges Bank Ecosystem and the potential for harm from exploration and production activities, it is difficult to envision any time in the foreseeable future when these oil company operations could be considered "safe" on Georges Bank.

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