How Oil Lobbyists Pressured Canada to Allow Drilling in a Marine Park

Oil Lobbyists CAPP Offshore Drilling DeSmog Canada

Sharks, sea turtles, corals, wolffish — the 1,200 kilometre Laurentian Channel off the southwest coast of Newfoundland is home to tremendous biodiversity.

And that’s the reason it’s set to become Canada’s newest Marine Protected Area, a designation designed to conserve and protect vulnerable species and ecosystems.

There’s just one catch: draft regulations for the proposed 11,619 square-kilometre protected area allow oil and gas exploration and drilling for much of the year. In addition, the government has reduced the size of the protected area by more than one-third from what was originally planned.

Amid Closure of B.C. Salmon Fisheries, Study Finds Feds Failed to Monitor Stocks

Adams River sockeye, A.S. Wright

Canada has failed to monitor and gather data on 50 per cent of all managed salmon populations on B.C.’s north and central coasts, according to a study released Monday in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Researchers from Simon Fraser University found the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is monitoring fewer streams now than before the introduction of a wild salmon policy in 2005 that was designed to assess the health of wild salmon populations and aid those deemed at risk.

Our knowledge of salmon populations in B.C. is eroding,” study co-author and Simon Fraser University researcher Michael Price told DeSmog Canada. “And it’s really frustrating.”

A number of salmon fisheries, including the Fraser and Skeena River sockeye fisheries, closed due to low salmon runs this summer.

Price and co-researcher John Reynolds found that since the 1980s, annual counts of spawning streams have declined by 70 per cent.

Industry Sways Feds to Allow Offshore Drilling in Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area

North Atlantic right whales

If an ocean valley becomes federally protected but seismic work and offshore drilling is allowed in more than 80 per cent of the territory, is it really federally protected?

That’s the question facing Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is currently working on the final regulations for the 11,619 square kilometre Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area off the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

The proposed regulations published on June 24 in the Canada Gazette included significant allowances for offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, as well a reduction by more than one-third in the actual size of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) from the original area plotted out in 2007.

The government admitted the regulations came about after fossil fuel lobbyists “raised concerns with respect to limitations on potential future activities.”

Can Canada Save Its Fish Habitat Before It’s Too Late?


Thirteen years ago, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) issued almost 700 authorizations to projects that would negatively impact fish habitat, mostly in the resource extraction sector: forestry, mining, oil and gas.

By last fiscal year, that number had dropped to 74.

One would think that’s a positive sign. Perhaps the DFO approved far fewer projects, echoing its ambitious 1986 commitment to “no net loss” of fish habitat?

That wasn’t the case.

Thanks to a number of changes — mostly via the “Environmental Process Modernization Plan” of the mid-2000s and the Conservative Party’s industry-led gutting of the Fisheries Act in 2012 — most projects are now “self-assessed” by proponents.

Over the same span, the DFO’s budget was repeatedly slashed, increasingly undermining the department’s ability to monitor and enforce contraventions with “boots on the ground.”

Harm is happening at the same levels that it always has been,” says Martin Olszynski, assistant professor in law at University of Calgary who specializes in environmental, water and natural resources law. “It’s just that fewer and fewer proponents are coming to DFO and asking for authorization. That’s the reality on the ground.”

Canada Now Has a Minister of Environment AND Climate Change

Miniser of Environment Catherine McKenna

Leaders in Canada’s environmental community are expressing optimism about the appointment of lawyer Catherine McKenna as Minister of Environment and Climate Change at a swearing in ceremony in Ottawa Wednesday morning.

Including climate change in the environment minister’s title signals how high a priority this issue is to our new federal government,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.

As a lawyer, McKenna focused on international trade and competition and co-founded a charity focused on advancing human rights in the developing world.  She was also a legal adviser and negotiator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor. A video on her website shows her biking around Ottawa with her three children.

DFO Slams Kinder Morgan's Shoddy Analysis of Oil Tankers' Impact on Whales

Oil tanker, Kinder Morgan, Whale Habitat, humpback

A report submitted to the National Energy Board (NEB) by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) points to “insufficient information and analysis” in Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal as it relates to whale populations off the coast of British Columbia.

There are deficiencies in both the assessment of potential effects resulting from ship strikes and exposure to underwater noise in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents,” the report says. “Ship strike is a threat of conservation concern, especially for…Fin Whales, Humpback Whales and other baleen whales.”

The report concludes that an increase in shipping intensity related to Kinder Morgan’s proposal would lead to an increase in threats to whale populations that occupy the Strait of Georgia and the Juan de Fuca Strait.

The Secret Lives of Sea Otters: Top Predators Not So Cute and Cuddly After All

Sea otters

Sea otters score top marks on the cute and cuddly scale as they float around kelp beds holding hands or hugging fuzzy pups, but when they show up on the marine doorstep, it is like having a pack of badly behaved German shepherds taking over the neighborhood.

They weigh about 80 pounds, they eat 4,000 calories a day and they just tear through the environment,” said Eric Peterson, co-founder of the Tula Foundation, which funds research at the Hakai Institute, a field science station on Calvert Island on the Central Coast.

Sea otters and the effect they have on the environment became one of the institute’s research projects almost by accident after about 150 of them showed up near Calvert Island two years ago.

The results have been quite amazing and dramatic,” Peterson said.

Research has centred around the effect sea otters have on sea urchin populations and kelp beds.

'Explosion of Discovery’ at Remote B.C. Research Station Bucks Trend of Cuts to Science

Hakai Institute

A former luxury fishing lodge on a remote island off B.C.’s Central Coast has been transformed into a cutting-edge research centre, producing some of the province’s most innovative science.

From early April until mid-October each year the off-the-grid Hakai Institute field station on Calvert Island houses renowned scientists, university professors, graduate students and post-doctoral students researching all aspects of the B.C. coast, from grizzly bears and sea otters to sand formations, archaeology and microbes.

The breadth of the research was show-cased Friday when more than 200 scientists and First Nations researchers gathered in Sidney for the Hakai Research Exchange.

And, sitting at the back of the room, listening intently to the presentations, were the two people who have made the field research station a reality.

Community on Forefront of Climate Change Adaptation Offers Lessons about Food Security

Hartley Bay

Food is at the heart of our cultural lives. It’s not just sustenance—it’s part of how we celebrate, how we mourn and how we come together. But what happens when the food that defines us begins to disappear?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report released in March, climate change is already having an affect on food security. Extreme weather in “key producing regions” has already led to drastic jumps in food pricing. In cities we are padded from these effects by long supply chains, but not so in places like Hartley Bay on the northern coast of British Columbia.

The CFIA's PR War On Salmon: Internationally Renowned Canadian OIE Research Lab Loses The Battle They Shouldn't Have to Fight

salmon prespawn mortality
Early detection of a lethal virus in salmon won’t win you any gratitude in Canada, but it could get you internationally discredited. That’s what happened Dr. Frederick Kibenge and associates at his lab at the Atlantic Veterinary College of Prince Edward Island when he positively identified the presence of the Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv) in samples taken from B.C. fish. 
Dr. Kibenge, internationally renowned expert on the ISA, runs one of only two independent research labs recognized by World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). His lab is responsible for diagnosing Chile’s fish farms with the ISA in 2007. The virus was tracked back to eggs originating in Norway. When he detected the ISA virus in B.C. salmon, he found that he was up against more than just a lethal epidemic—he had to fear for his scientific credibility. 
Because of his findings, “Dr. Kibenge was subpoenaed to testify at the Cohen Commission. In December 2011, he told he Commission about the positive test results for ISA virus sequences he obtained from Rivers Inlet Fraser River Salmon.” The CFIA claimed that because his lab could not recreate the original results, his international certification ought to be revoked. 


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