BP Canada granted an exploratory license to drill for oil and gas in protected marine area  | Ecology Action Centre

BP Canada granted an exploratory license to drill for oil and gas in protected marine area 

The oil and gas industry once again cuts into the Northeast Newfoundland Slope fishery closure 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 12, 2020 

K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is expressing dismay after the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) announced last week that it will grant an exploratory license to BP Canada Energy Group to drill for oil in Atlantic Canada’s largest protected marine area.  

The Northeast Newfoundland Slope Closure is a 55,000-km2 marine refuge that was established in 2017 to protect sensitive species like corals and sponges from bottom fishing. However, because marine refuges are established under the Fisheries Act and only regulate the fishing activity, the site is not protected from oil and gas development. Between the newly announced area and those from previous years, exploratory oil and gas leases will now cover roughly one-quarter of the refuge. 

“It is important that marine refuges offer a high quality of protection so they can effectively safeguard Atlantic Canada’s unique and sensitive marine life,” explains Jordy Thomson, Senior Marine Coordinator (Ecosystems) with EAC. “It doesn’t make sense to ban bottom fishing but allow drilling. International guidance on protected areas is clear that industrial activities like oil and gas should not be permitted within protected areas.” 

Canada has committed to protecting 25% of its ocean area by 2025 and 30% by 2030. While the current announcement relates to exploratory drilling only, when a production license is granted within a marine refuge, the lease area would no longer be considered protected for the purposes of measuring Canada’s progress toward these targets (although bottom fishing would still be banned). 

“Under this approach, marine refuges become these ever-receding jigsaw puzzles with questionable conservation value,” says Thomson. “The federal government and the C-NLOPB need to put a halt to oil and gas development in all protected marine areas.”  

Earlier this year, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, created a regulation that exempts exploratory drilling projects in the offshore region east of Newfoundland from federal impact assessment because a large-scale Regional Assessment had been completed. However, environmental groups, including EAC, have argued that the Regional Assessment was fundamentally flawed and incomplete, and are challenging both the assessment and exemption regulation in court. 

For media inquiries: 

Jordy Thomson  

Senior Marine Coordinator (Ecosystems), Ecology Action Centre 



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