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No evidence seismic tests will cause harm: NRI

The executive director of the Nunavut Research Institute says there is no evidence that seismic testing in Lancaster Sound will have any impact on the environment.

Institute defends decision to grant licence for Lancaster Sound testing

The executive director of the Nunavut Research Institute says there is no evidence that seismic testing in Lancaster Sound will have any impact on the environment.

The institute had no reason to deny a research licence for Natural Resources Canada's planned seismic testing in Lancaster Sound, Mary Ellen Thomas said.

The testing is set to start in August and continue until mid-October.

Inuit organizations and communities in particular are concerned about the testing's potential effect on marine life, and have expressed fears that this could be the first step toward oil and gas exploration and eventual unwanted development.

But Thomas said the NRI has clear rules outlining when it should refuse a permit, and the Lancaster Sound seismic testing does not meet the guidelines.

"I understand people's fears. This is their diet," Mary Ellen Thomas said. "Any damage that could happen to marine mammals, there is great fear out there of any scientific work, but I could not find any evidence of that and our act says that there has to be demonstrated environmental impact."

The noise made by the seismic testing won't be substantially louder than that created by any other ship passing through the area, she said.

Two small changes to the original proposal have been made — two wildlife monitors will be on the ship, and testing will stop if a whale is spotted within one kilometre of the ship, which is twice the distance originally proposed.

The federal government has said the research is needed because very little scientific information on the area is available. It also has reaffirmed commitment into turning the area into a marine park.

Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott said he's not confident that the government has a strong commitment to create a park.

He echoed community concerns that oil and gas exploration could follow the testing.

"You know, where they're gonna come looking for it [oil and gas], and that could potentially change the way of life in our community," Elliott said.

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