Royal Society Fails BC Environment

February 17, 2004

VANCOUVER, BC – Greenpeace, the Living Oceans Society and the Georgia Strait Alliance joined forces to reject the recommendations of the Royal Society of Canada. The report suggested that there were no scientific gaps that should hold up the lifting of the moratorium on offshore energy exploration.

"This report fails to protect the ecosystem of the Queen CharlotteBasin and it fails the people of British Columbia . Essentially,the report suggests a ‘try it out and see what happens’ approach to environmental protection," said David Fields, Greenpeace Campaigner. "The panel is relying on technical fixes to detect and repair any damage that occurs, and experience from Chernobyl to the ExxonValdez has shown that this is a dangerous path to take. We can’tafford to take chances with this delicate ecosystem. They have not followed the precautionary principle, and the report should be dismissed as failing to meet its mandate."

The Royal Society report also ignores the biggest environmentalthreat of our time – climate change. This would open up new oiland gas fields just as most of the world is turning away from fossil fuels in favour of clean, green renewable energy. The Queen Charlotte Basin is rich in wind generation potential, and it is that side of the energy equation that should be explored.

"The conclusions of the report are surprising and disappointing considering that the authors themselves indicate that there’s much we don’t know about the Queen Charlotte basin. Foreseeing the inevitable negative impacts of oil and gas drilling on this region is therefore impossible," said Christianne Wilhelmson,of the Georgia Strait Alliance. "In a time of deregulation, there is no reason to believe that a strong regulatory system can be created to ensure the protection of this fragile environment.Lifting a moratorium is not the way to expand scientific knowledge,nor manage an industry. You just have to look at the salmon farm industry to see what can go wrong when a moratorium is lifted.

"The problem with the science panel report is that it identifies many scientific gaps but then claims that these gaps will be addressed by putting in a regulatory regime," said Jennifer Lash,Executive Director of the Living Oceans Society. "The obvious question is how can regulations protect an ocean from an industry when we don’t know enough about our ocean and are therefore incapable of predicting how it might be impacted by industry. We don’t even have enough information to know exactly where the fish or the whales are!"

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