Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tribes concerned about loss of fishing due to oil spills

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Tribes concerned about loss of fishing due to oil spills
02/22/10 · 7:48 am :: posted by CCToday

Worried on Georges Bank

From Wampanoags in hollowed out log canoes to the reliable birch bark craft above of the Mi'kmaq, Beothuk and Maliseet/Passamoquoddy peoples, native populations hunted many species of fish, as well as whales and seals.

Special to Cape Cod Today by Timothy Gillespie

Aboriginal fishermen on Georges Bank are worried. Very worried. For hundreds - if not thousands - of years their ancestors have fished the rugged, rocky coastlines and the more subdued shorelines and sandy beaches on and surrounding the Gulf of Maine, including Georges Bank. From the sturdy hollowed log canoe of the Wampanoag to the reliable birch bark craft of the Mi'kmaq, Beothuk and Maliseet/Passamoquoddy peoples, native populations hunted many species of fish, as well as whales and seals. After having been essentially excluded from the commercial fishery in Nova Scotia for some time, Aboriginal fisherman have seen a dramatic growth in their ranks in the past ten years and they are worried that this productive period could come to an abrupt end by the dangers posed by recent moves to approve oil and gas production on Georges Bank.

Adding to their concern is the catastrophic leak last August from the West Atlas Montara drilling platform operating in the Timor Sea off Australia. Crude oil leaking unabated for ten weeks into the surrounding water resulted in a surface slick encompassing more than 9,000 square miles. The Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism estimated that the Montara oil leak could be as high as 2000 barrels per day, or 22 million litres during the 71-day leak. Eventually, the rig was engulfed in a massive "disaster movie" fire that destroyed the facility. It is estimated that the massive spill from the state-of-the-art rig resulted in thousands of dead fish, turtles and sea snakes.

Canada owns 16% but neither fish nor oil can read maps

Georges Bank is the most unique and productive marine environment and fishing ground between Cape Cod and Labrador. The Canadian portion (16%) is now under the protection of an oil and gas moratorium, but government statements in the past months indicate a growing appetite to explore for oil and gas in these incredibly fecund waters. In the Canadian portion of Georges Bank catches for cod, haddock, yellow flounder, lobster, scallops and other species have totaled more than $2 billion over the past ten years. Catches for those species plus an enormous herring fishery are estimated to be up to $8 billion in the same period for American fishermen, operating out of ports in Maine, Massachusetts and elsewhere. "This is simply one of the best fishing grounds in the world," says Bee D'Entremont, who has been fishing in the area for more than 15 years. "The total biomass is phenomenal." He adds, "A lot of the species we fish spawn here and depend on the unique circulation of nutrients that the gyre creates. A spill here could kill us."

Aboriginal communities have entered the Nova Scotia commercial fishery in record numbers.

Aboriginal communities have entered the Nova Scotia commercial fishery in record numbers - with Native held licenses increasing by more than 400%, from 316 to 1238 from 1999 to 2009. 17 of the 34 Maritimes First Nation's Bands are engaged in fisheries which have an interest in Georges Bank and two of three of the area's Native Councils are engaged in commercial fisheries which have an interest in the fate of George's Bank. All of these bands and councils strongly support the continuation of the current moratorium on oil and gas on Georges Bank, which is slated to end in 2012.

The risk to Native fishers is far greater than the four hundred or so who captain and crew the boats fishing for groundfish, scallops and lobsters, but extends to those earning salaries for support, administration and other work surrounding the communal commercial fishery activities. In 2009, the Native Council of Nova Scotia engaged 13 commercial fishing vessels in various commercial fisheries in Nova Scotia, generating some $750,000.00 in employment earnings and in the Bay of Fundy, First Nation fisheries include some 70 commercial fishing licenses that generate $13.3 million annually based on 2004 average price and catch. In the Scallop fishery, there are 27 communal commercial licenses, with an estimated revenue of $3.1 million annually.

In the region, according to a 2009 report from the Atlantic Policy Council of First Nation Chiefs, more than 1,000 jobs have been created in communal commercial fisheries administration, there has been a high rate of participation by First Nations communities in fishery management and a Asolid initial platform of revenue generation, employment, corporate and fisheries management expertise development in the fishery."

The relatively recent addition of this income provides a more stable, sustainable and integrated economy for aboriginal fishers, families and communities - the non-government revenues generated from Aboriginal fishing enterprises are increasingly vital to the Aboriginal Communities, who depend upon the funds for community infrastructure and housing, education and public works projects, social assistance and community and health services, recreation, youth and elder outreach and other activities.

"Mi'kmaq communities depend on the income generated from Georges Bank for essential services within its communities such as infrastructure, housing, education, policing and community well being and if anything was to happen to the ecosystem on Georges Bank 10,000 community members that benefit from profits from the fishery would now be without," says Hubert Nicholas, a Mi'kmaq commercial fisherman for 20+ years and now Commercial Fisheries Liaison Coordinator for the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR).

The decades of exploration, drilling and production in offshore regions the world over has resulted in thousands of spills of various sizes and severity and Aboriginal and other fishermen who make a living from Georges Bank remain concerned about spills and the many yet unknown effects on fish and other marine species, from possible damage from seismic testing to pollution from "produced water". The extent of "exclusion zones" in such a small area could make much of the prime fishing grounds off limits for decades. The possibility of a modern catastrophe the likes of the recent Montara spill in Australia is almost too awful to imagine.

"Offshore oil exploration could jeopardize the financial benefits that Mi'kmaq communities enjoy from the fishery," Nicholas adds. "If something were to go wrong with offshore gas exploration it would affect the species that live there as well as in the Bay of Fundy and Eastern Nova Scotia. While oil companies claim that they are safe, oil spills continue to occur and have a devastating effect on the environment." The unique "gyre" of ocean currents on Georges would also ensure that a spill of any consequence would pollute the enormous American herring fishery and would wash up on the shores of Massachusetts and other New England states.

One of the factors being floated for consideration, according to Denny Morrow, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association, is that there is new, safe technology for exploration and production of offshore oil and gas.

"The recent, horrific spill in Australia of millions of litres of oil from one of the most modern operations ever should tell us how safe oil and gas drilling is for the sea, the fish and the surrounding habitat," Morrow says. It is a special and unique place, with fish and shellfish spawning 12 months a year, he adds. "Why we would ever risk damaging or destroying it is simply beyond me. We should just leave it alone".

Timothy Gillespie is a writer and artist living in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. His work has also appeared in the Providence Journal, New Bedford Standard-Times, Calgary Herald, Monterey Herald, Nova Scotia Business Journal, Liverpool Advance, Oakland Post and elsewhere.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Calais LNG whale assessment submitted to FERC - woefully inadequate!

 Since right whale habitat studies have concentrated only in the open Bay of Fundy — not near Head Harbour Passage or in Grand Manan Channel — research is unlikely to reveal actual right whale activity in the unstudied areas, including the 40 right whales that frequented near the entrance to Head Harbour Passage last summer (2009). Such research and results are commonly referred to by the scientific community as "garbage in, garbage out"; the results are a reflection of the quality of the research.

As marine biologist Art MacKay, who has been mapping whale sighting data in the Quoddy area, stated last summer, Head Harbour Passage was "plugged with whales." (See Art's whale-sightings map at the top-left of his I Love Quoddy Wild website. Or go directly to a larger version of his Fundy Whales map on CommunityWalk.)

Danielle Dione's Quoddy Link Marine Sightings and Updates blog has video-recorded and still-photographed prolific whale (including right whale) activity in the proposed LNG transit area, the area that Calais LNG's "research" claims would be unaffected by LNG transits. 

Bob Godfrey

Whales unaffected by LNG plant: report BY BARB RAYNER

February 25, 2010
CALAIS — A biological assessment filed by Calais LNG with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has concluded that increased vessel traffic from this proposed project is not likely to adversely affect North Atlantic right whales.

The lengthy report – a biological assessment on threatened and endangered marine mammals and sea turtles – was prepared for the company by Normandeau Associates Inc of Bedford, New Hampshire and submitted to FERC this week.

It concludes that liquid natural gas transport vessels using the terminal will avoid travel through the areas most heavily utilized by right whales but also notes that low visibility, such as fog and night transit, in addition to the whales’ surface behaviour, limits the ability to see these whales.

The report says Calais LNG has sought the most effective mitigation measures to reduce the risk of collisions with whales.

These mitigation measures, and others, will be included in a Ship Strike Reduction Plan which will be included as part of the charter party agreement with project carriers.

Based on the relatively low percentage increase in vessel traffic (3.1 per cent) that the Calais LNG project will contribute to the entire Bay of Fundy area, combined with the mitigation measures and a ship speed of 10 knots, the authors of the report assert that “the increased traffic from this project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the North Atlantic right whales.

The report also states that the overlap in frequency and source levels of vessel noise with right whale calls, vessel noise and presence of vessels may affect but are not likely to adversely affect the right whales. Similar reasons are listed in the report as
to why it is felt the project will also not adversely affect humpback, fin, sei, blue and sperm whales. Due to the relatively low prevalence of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles within the transit route, the report notes that the vessels are also unlikely to adversely affect them either.

Calais LNG proposes to build an LNG receiving, storage and vaporization terminal and related natural gas send-out pipeline at a site near Ford Point on the St. Croix River in Calais.

The project will allow for berthing and off-loading LNG vessels, storage of three 160,000-cubic-metre LNG tanks and delivery of natural gas to the send-out pipeline connecting the terminal with the interstate pipeline of Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline for transportation to markets in New England.

The terminal site will be located within the Calais city limits on a site approximately six miles (9.5 km) southeast of the city’s population centre and approximately 20.7 miles (33 km) from the pipeline.

The site area is approximately 337 acres which include intertidal land with about 2,800 feet of frontage on the St. Croix River and adjacent submerged lands.

The terminal will be developed on a portion of about 35 acres that lie between US Route 1 and the St. Croix River. It will include berthing and unloading marine facilities and will receive one to two LNG vessels a week.

Initial construction will include two tanks and timing of construction of the third tank will be based on considerations such as expanded market requirements and inventory management in support of supply reliability.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mercy's James Tupper Roots for Canada's Bay of Fundy as New Natural Wonder

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From TV Guide
Feb 25, 2010 12:25 PM ET
by Gina DiNunno

James Tupper

James Tupper's heart belongs to the Bay of Fundy. The Mercy heartthrob is campaigning for the Canadian coastal region in a contest to pick the world's best experiences in nature.

"I grew up in Nova Scotia, and my uncle lived close to the Bay of Fundy," says Tupper, the ambassador of the Canadian bay for the contest, which is sponsored by an organization called New7Wonders. "We would walk across the mud flats out to an island, and then you'd climb a cliff and be in the forest. And if the water came in, the basin would fill up with, like, a 30-foot tide. It was phenomenal."

The Bay of Fundy is a 170-mile-long ocean bay in the heart of Canada's Maritime provinces between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The area is home to the highest tides in the world, 12 species of whales and biodiversity comparable to the Amazon rain forest.

Tupper's beloved bay has some serious competition, including the Amazon River, the Dead Sea, the Grand Canyon, the Matterhorn and Mt. Vesuvius. New7Wonders hopes to receive more than a billion votes for the 28 finalists. New7Wonders is the same organization that grabbed headlines in 2007 when it asked people to choose seven new man-made wonders.

As a 10th-generation Nova Scotian, Tupper not only hopes the Bay of Fundy will be named one of the New7Wonders of Nature in 2011, but that it will also remain unspoiled.

"It's got this geographical isolation where you have to take a multiple flights. It's kind of hard to get to, but because of that, it's preserved its land where there's not a lot of factories and the fishing villages are still intact," says Tupper. "I think there's a growing environmental consciousnesses in the world now, and, hopefully, this campaign will be a part of it."

Click here to vote in the New7Wonders campaign.

Additional LNG capacity in the Bay of Fundy is not needed

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Business at LNG company pumps up — The Boston Herald, Boston, MA

As Mayor Thomas M. Menino fights to ban future liquefied natural gas shipments from Yemen into Boston Harbor, a rival company is touting its new offshore LNG buoy system as a safer alternative.

…LNG tankers are now steaming in at a regular rate, sometimes two at a time, offloading their dangerous cargo about 10 miles out to sea.

By the end of this month, Excelerate will have unloaded about seven tankers at its offshore site, or about 15 to 20 percent of the gas used by New Englanders during the current season, he said.

Webmaster’s (Bob Godfrey) Comments

Canaport LNG is supplying 20% of the Northeast's natural gas. Distrigas in Everett, Massachusetts is supplying 20%. Northeast Gateway is supplying another 20%. Soon, Suez Energy's Neptune LNG will also be supplying approximately 20% of New England's natural gas. That's 80% of New England's natural gas needs — already met by existing and under-construction projects, not to mention the natural gas arriving by existing pipeline from the Gulf of Mexico.

Ill-sited latecomers Calais LNG and Downeast LNG simply are not needed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Groundbreaking Tidal Power Technology to be Tested in Cobscook Bay

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02/18/2010 Reported By: Anne Mostue

A Portland-based tidal power company unveiled its latest underwater turbine structure today in Bangor. It's the largest ocean energy device to be deployed in U.S. waters, and it will be submerged in Cobscook Bay early next month.

Eastport continues to be the hub for some of the most advanced tidal power research in the country, according to the Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Company and the University of Maine.

"Cobscook Bay and Western Passage, which are on either side of Eastport, are the best tidal energy resources on the east coast of the U.S., so that's why we're there," says Christopher Sauer, CEO of Ocean Renewable Power Company, which is developing tidal power projects in Maine, Alaska and Florida.

Sauer contracted Stillwater Metalworks of Bangor and Harbor Technologies of Brunswick to build its latest turbine, nicknamed Energy Tide 2 (pictured above). "It's going to be at the end of deployment arms that are at the side of a barge and it's going to be lowered in underneath the barge and it will be about 25 feet below the surface," he says. "And the barge is going to be moored in Cobscook Bay, just off from an area called Shackford Head. So actually, interesting, as you drive into Eastport, at one point as you're coming into town you'll actually be able to look over and see it."

The device is made up of a rectangular framed box containing a 10,000-pound generator and turbine blades. It looks like a giant push-reel lawnmower - 46-feet wide by 11-feet tall, and 14-and-a-half feet deep. "It's the largest Ocean Energy Device ever deployed in U.S. waters," Sauer says. "It's rated, designed for a maximum capacity of 60 kilowatts, so that's the largest yet done in the United States. Now in Europe and other places they have done bigger, but in the U.S. this is the biggest."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Will the Bay of Fundy feel the Bumble Bee's Sting Too?

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State plans aid for cannery workers

Federal limit on herring catch cited as main reason for closing plant

By Rich Hewitt
BDN Staff

GOULDSBORO, Maine — A state Rapid Response Team could be on-site as early as next week to begin the process of assisting workers who will be idled when the Bumble Bee Foods cannery closes in two months.

Officials from the Maine Department of Labor are working with company officials to get the process started, according to department spokesman Adam Fisher.

“We’re shooting for next week,” Fisher said Thursday. “We’re looking to start the conversation with workers about their next steps.”

Bumble Bee announced on Wednesday that it plans to close the plant on April 18, ending a century-old tradition in the community and in the country. The former Stinson Seafood plant is the last sardine cannery in the United States. An estimated 128 people are expected to lose their jobs when the facility is shuttered.

Read the entire article here: