Federal agency rejects funding for controversial seismic testing

Vancouver, BC – BC environmental groups are applauding the decision of Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to withdraw funding for a harmful seismic blasting project proposed for the North Coast waters, which is home to a rich diversity of marine life, including humpback whales, orcas, and many stocks of migrating salmon.

“We are pleased that NSERC decided to withdraw funding based on the advice of DFO marine scientists, and international scientists who warned that seismic testing in these channels poses a serious risk to humpback whales, fin whales, orcas and other marine life,” says Oonagh O’Connor of Living Oceans Society.

Because the Batholiths proponents had requested funding from NSERC, the environmental organizations are hopeful that withdrawal of funding means the controversial project will not proceed. For the project to go ahead, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) would need to issue permits under the Species at Risk Act and the Fisheries Act that allow the researchers to harm and harass endangered marine species.

“We expect DFO to do the right thing and not issue permits,” says Chris Genovali of Raincoast Conservation Society. “It is noteworthy that well over 1,000 citizens have written to the Canadian government expressing their objections to the Batholiths proposal on the basis that it would be harmful to marine life and set a dangerous precedent for seismic testing on the BC coast.”

Salmon migrate through the proposed testing area, which includes nursery grounds for many juvenile fish species. Much of the proposed seismic blasting would occur in narrow coastal inlets, which increases the potential for harm because humpbacks, harbour porpoises and other animals trying to avoid the noise may have difficulty escaping.

“Seismic testing, whether for academic study or to locate oil and gas, presents unacceptable risks to important parts of BC’s environment and economy,” says Jay Ritchlin of the David Suzuki Foundation. “NSERC’s decision supports the protection of BC’s coastal waters and we hope it puts an end to any proposals to use seismic testing here.”

The Batholiths Project, led by U.S. academics, aims to use some of the world’s loudest air gun arrays in the waters off Burke and Dean Channels (between Bella Bella and Prince Rupert) as part of a study on how the Coast Mountains were formed. The project would involve firing 36 high-pressure air guns into coastal waters every 20-60 seconds, 24 hours a day for three weeks.

“The decision by NSERC to withdraw funding for the Batholiths project is great news for all marine mammals and fish inhabiting the coastal waters of BC,” says Hermann Meuter of the North Coast Cetacean Society. “It is a great relief to coastal communities and all those who depend on marine resources.”

For more information contact:

Oonagh O’Connor, Offshore oil and gas campaign coordinator
Living Oceans Society
Ph: 250-230-6580

Jay Ritchlin, Marine Conservation Specialist
David Suzuki Foundation
Ph: 604 961-6840

Christianne Wilhelmson, Program Coordinator
Georgia Strait Alliance
Ph: 604-633-0530 or 604 862-7579 (cell)

Chris Genovali, Executive Director
Raincoast Conservation Society
Ph: 250-655-1229
C: 250-888-3579

Lara Tessaro, Staff Lawyer,
Sierra Legal
Ph: 604 685 5618 ext 245

Hermann Meuter, President
North Coast Cetacean Society