HALIFAX – A call for energy companies to bid for exploration rights around Nova Scotia’s iconic Sable Island has prompted swift condemnation from a coalition of environmental, fishing and tourism groups.
Gretchen Fitzgerald with the Sierra Club Canada Foundation says oil and gas development would threaten the ecologically sensitive balance of rare birds, grey seals and wild horses on the crescent-shaped island, roughly 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax.
The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board launched the competitive bidding process for exploration rights Monday — one day after Parks Canada wrapped up a survey about how to manage the Sable Island National Park Reserve.
Fitzgerald says it’s “absurd” that while the federal parks agency is consulting Canadians about whether to allow camping and increased tourism on Sable Island, the provincial regulator is moving ahead with hydrocarbon exploration in the area.
John Davis, director of the Clean Ocean Action Committee, says the regulator is an unelected and unaccountable board and that its oversight is inadequate to protect Sable Island.
The groups are calling for the new licences — two “industry nominated” parcels in the shallow waters off the remote island — to be cancelled, and for an immediate moratorium on offshore drilling while a public inquiry examines oil and gas development off Nova Scotia’s coast.