Nova Scotia fishery can co-exist with Shell oil drilling, ministers say
'We have a very proud record both environmentally and in safety,' says Energy Minister Michel Samson
Two provincial cabinet ministers are trying to reassure fishing groups that their industry will be able to co-exist with Shell Canada, after the company got the green light to begin drilling for oil off the coast of Nova Scotia.
This week, fishery industry representatives warned that parcels of the ocean that may be snapped up for oil and gas exploration are too close to major fishing banks on the Scotian Shelf, putting those fishing grounds at risk.
But Energy Minister Michel Samson is not concerned.
"We know the importance of our fishery here in Nova Scotia but, as well, one needs to keep in mind that we have been doing offshore development for the last 25 years," he said.
"We have a very proud record both environmentally and in safety."
Samson said he knows fishing and exploration can occur in the same area given the experience in his riding of Cape Breton-Richmond.
"I come from an area in Cape Breton that has a snow crab fishery just off the coast of Sable Island where production is currently taking place," he said.
"They have been able to co-exist for many years and I was suspect that the development being proposed here will be able to do so in a safe manner and will co-exist well with the fishery."
Oil well blowout is 'worst-case scenario'
That sentiment is shared by his cabinet colleague Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell.
"I think we've got an excellent record," Colwell said, adding he doesn't believe the oil wells and exploration parcels are too close to Georges and Browns banks.
But Richard "Bee" d'Entremont, the co-owner of Acadian Fish Processors Ltd. of Lower West Pubnico, was concerned about rigs drilling too close to "sensitive areas where fish are spawning.
"Any oil spill from a well on the Scotian Shelf in the south of the province, it wouldn't take very long with the storm tides we have in our area for a blowout to make a mess not only in the Bay of Fundy but the Gulf of Maine right up to the U.S. coast," he said Wednesday.
Samson was quick to dismiss that concern.
"Keep in mind that if that were to happen, it meant that everything went wrong — that all of the protections that are in place, all the lessons learned from Macondo, all the new technologies that have been there, all of that would have had to fail before we would reach that point," he said.
"That's the absolute worst-case scenario. And the industry is telling us they have learned what went wrong with Macondo. They have put in the technologies. They have been able to undertake safe drilling around the world since that time."
A BP-owned platform in the Macondo Prospect region of the Gulf of Mexico blew up in April 2010, killing 11 crew members and creating a major oil spill.