September 2, 2008
[Yarmouth, N.S.] The coalition of fishermen, aboriginal groups, processors and environmentalists that spearheaded efforts to retain the moratorium prohibiting oil and gas exploration and development on Georges Bank in the late 1990’s is once again active and will promote extending the current moratorium beyond the 2012 expiry date.
The existing moratorium was first established in 1988 and was extended until 2012 after an extensive panel review process during the late 1990’s. That three person panel produced a report in 1999 after commissioning scientific studies and after holding numerous consultations to receive public input and information from the fishing and petroleum exploration industries. The 1999 report weighed the risks to the fishery and the unique, sensitive marine environment on Georges Bank against the potential benefits of a natural gas discovery and recommended that the Nova Scotia and federal governments extend the moratorium for another period.
The federal and provincial legislation that extended the moratorium through 2012 specifies that the two governments must decide whether another panel review process is warranted before June 1, 2010.
The NORIGS 3 Coalition includes lobster fishermen from south-western Nova Scotia and around the Bay of Fundy; fishermen who harvest cod and haddock and other ground fish species on Georges with hook and line and mobile gear; scallop, tuna and swordfish fleets; the two seafood processing associations in the province, aboriginal groups and members of environmental organizations. Denny Morrow, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association, has volunteered to the chair the Coalition. Mr. Morrow expects participation from New England fishermen and environmental groups in NORIGS 3 since there is a moratorium on the US portion of Georges Bank that also extends to 2012.
Georges Bank is located at the entrance to the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy. It is one of the most productive spawning areas for fish, shellfish, marine animals and seabirds in the Atlantic Ocean. Georges Bank falls under the jurisdiction of both Canada and the United States. The smaller Canadian portion produces important commercial landings of scallops, haddock, cod, lobsters and other species that provide many fishing and processing jobs concentrated in the southwest Nova Scotia region. It is the one area of the Canadian North Atlantic that has seen a recovery of ground fish stocks. The biomass of haddock on Georges is now the largest on record for the last 50 years.
Speaking for the NORIGS 3 Coalition, Denny Morrow says that the federal and provincial ministers of fisheries, environment and energy should use the 1999 panel report as a starting point to decide if the risks and recommendations outlined in the report should be re-examined or whether the moratorium should be extended for another 10 year period. If the Ministers decide that there have been significant changes, they should initiate another impartial panel review patterned after the process during the late 90’s. The new panel would be responsible for collecting the relevant scientific information, coordinating any further research and would hold consultation sessions to gain public input before producing further recommendations on the moratorium beyond 2012.
NORIGS 3 Coalition
Acadian Fish Processors Ltd.
Charlesville Fisheries Ltd.
Ecology Action Centre
Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council
Inshore Fisheries Ltd.
Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council
Maritime Aboriginal Aquatic Resources Secretariate
Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association
Nova Scotia Swordfishermen’s Association
Scotia Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association
Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia
Shelburne County Quota Group
Wilford Smith, Co-Chair, Lobster Fishing Area 33 Committee
Ashton Spinney, Co-Chair, Lobster Fishing Area 34 Committee
Xsealent Seafood Company
Contact: Denny Morrow – 902-742-6167