Canadian Government Deaf to Seismic Science

Media Release: April 18, 2005

VICTORIA, BC – The federal government’s draft regulations for seismic testing fall short of addressing negative impacts on the marine environment, according to Oil Free Coast, a national coalition of scientists, environmental groups and fisheries organizations. Fisheries and Oceans Canada released its draft Statement of Canadian Practice on the Mitigation of Seismic Noise February 19.

Seismic testing uses intense noise to locate oil and gas deposits beneath the sea floor. It has been shown to damage the hearing and disturb the reproduction, migration and feeding patterns of a wide range of marine species.

"The Statement of Canadian Practice makes claims that are scientifically indefensible and irresponsible given our current knowledge," said Dalhousie University whale researcher Dr. Lindy Weilgart. "It makes a mockery of science-based stewardship and fails to adequately protect the marine environment."

The timing of the document’s release suggests that appeasing the oil and gas sector is behind the move to approve weak regulations – not marine protection. The release of the Statement of Canadian Practice coincides with a strong political push by industry and the B.C. government to begin seismic testing on the West Coast, despite B.C.’s moratorium on exploration.

"The B.C. government wants us to believe seismic testing is strictly for research, but Canadians should know that it’s essentially a green light for the oil and gas industry to size up B.C.’s resources," said Oonagh O’Connor, Offshore Oil and Gas Campaign Coordinator for Living Oceans Society.

"I fear that this regulation is being hastily cobbled together before there can be more noise made about seismic, and before even more damning evidence is produced regarding the danger seismic poses to fish and fishing communities," said Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Ecology Action Centre.

The groups assert that the Statement of Canadian Practice is the product of a severely flawed process.

"As a review panel member, I experienced first-hand the bias, lack of balance and cherry-picking of the scientific literature," said Dr. Weilgart. "The oil and gas industry was heavily represented, yet there were no environmental organizations and few independent scientists present. It’s not surprising that such a process produced a statement with so little precaution towards the marine environment."

The coalition, which comprises 105 organizations, is calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to abandon its draft Statement of Canadian Practice on the Mitigation of Seismic Noise in the Marine Environment and initiate an independent evaluation of the impacts of seismic testing.

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