Four-time Academy Award nominee and part-time Nova Scotia resident Ethan Hawke spoke out Monday about the need to protect the "beautiful water" of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas exploration.

Hawke was a special guest of an event in Afton in Nova Scotia's Antigonish County, organized by the leadership of four First Nations groups from Nova Scotia and Quebec: the Paqtnkek, Listuguj, Gesgapegiag and Gespeg First Nations.

The event included a water ceremony, followed by a press conference.

Hakwe was contacted by the local Mi'kmaq community to attend the event in support of his neighbours. He's owned property in the St. George's Bay area near Antigonish for 15 years and has been coming to the province for two decades.

Ethan Hawke and chief Paul (PJ) Prosper of Paq'tnkek First Nation

Chief Paul Prosper of the Paqtnkek First Nation and Ethan Hawke both spoke at the press conference on Monday in Afton, N.S. (CBC)

"My family settled in Texas at the turn of the last century and if you've seen the water outside Galveston, you would weep. You would really weep," said Hawke.

'I trust their judgment'

He says the concerns and wishes of local First Nations groups must be respected.

"They've earned that right, not just by inhabiting these lands for thousands of years, but for the way they've cared for that land and the water," said Hawke.

"I trust their judgment for what is best for this area, for the Earth, the land the people and the water."

Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, says First Nations groups and organizations like the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition have been working for years to raise awareness and Hawke's name brings new attention to their concerns.

Ethan Hawke at Mi'kmaq protest

Ethan Hawke, who owns land in the St. George's Bay area near Antigonish, is lending his star power to a group of Mi'kmaq protesters who are calling for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Stephen Puddicombe/CBC)

"Water, it affects everybody. It doesn't just affect First Nations people," said Jerome.

Hawke agreed his name can help lend some star power to the cause.

"The one thing I can do as the one actor in the community is to blab a little bit and to sit next to really intelligent, dedicated people who are working extremely hard to protect this beautiful water," he said.

'Now it's their time to step up'

The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition is calling for a 12-year exploration moratorium, which Jerome says is needed so the government can conduct a comprehensive review and environmental assessment.

The group says the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is considering plans for drilling at a site known as Old Harry, which is located midway between Quebec's Magdalen Islands and Cape Anguille in western Newfoundland.‚Äč

Jerome hopes the election of the federal Liberals will mean more co-operation from government, which is a promise Liberal candidates were making at doorsteps, he says.

"This will be one of the first tests that they will be challenged with because of the fact we've been trying to stop this for many years now and now that they're the new government, now it's their time to step up to the plate," said Jerome.

He hopes the news coverage from Monday's event will encourage Canadians to contact their MPs to talk about drilling.