A coalition of fishermen, environmentalists and First Nations groups have joined forces to oppose oil and gas activity in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by calling for a moratorium.

The groups making the call include the Ecology Action Centre, the Innu-Mi'kmaq Alliance and the Sierra Club of Canada. 

Troy Jerome, of the Innu-Mi'kmaq Alliance, says for First Nations people, it's a matter of treaty rights.

'The Gulf of St. Lawrence have been used and occupied by the Innu to the north and the Mi'kmaq to the south, for purposes including fishing, hunting, and travel.'​- Troy Jerome

"Since time immemorial, the waters and shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been used and occupied by the Innu to the north and the Mi'kmaq to the south, for purposes including fishing, hunting, and travel," Jerome explains.

"Because of these facts, we have rights that are recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and that the federal and provincial governments are obliged to consult and accommodate us in order to avoid any irreparable harm to the exercise of our rights."

The groups want and independent review and public consultation on whether oil and gas activity should be allowed. They say the gulf ecosystem is too fragile.

Greg Egilsson fishes lobster off the coast of Pictou and says oil and gas exploration is too big of a risk.

"Once production starts, it's a question of when, not if. There's going to be some kind of accident and any kind of accident taints the fishery in the gulf no matter if it affects it or not," he said.

"If they're going to give it a break somewhere, this would be a good spot."

Groups that support the moratorium 

  • Conservation Council of New Brunswick — New Brunswick
  • Ecology Action Centre — Nova Scotia
  • Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation — Nova Scotia
  • Innu-Mi'kmaq Alliance for the Protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Nature Newfoundland and Labrador — Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition — Nova Scotia
  • Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition — Prince Edwards Island Chapter
  • Sierra Club Canada Foundation — Atlantic Chapter
  • St. Lawrence Coalition — Quebec

The groups also insist a review panel and thorough public discussion on the issue be held across Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., New Brunswick and Quebec to consult with the communities and First Nations about the future of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The coalition says fisheries like lobster, eel, and snow crab support thousands of families in all five provinces.

Endangered blue whales, bluefin tuna, belugas, the remaining northern cod and many other valued species feed, spawn, mate and rear young in the waters of the Gulf. The groups fear all could be at risk from oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

Egilsson said an oil spill in the Gulf could not be contained.

"They can't contain it and the gulf is covered in ice for four or five months a year, it's too sensitive a spawning area for lots of species," he said.

"It affects everybody, landowners, coastal landowners, everybody."