Energy East pipeline would stress whales, conservation group says
A right whale dives near a ship in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, Sept. 10, 2007. (New England Aquarium)
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 19, 2015 9:07AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 19, 2015 10:18AM EDT
FREDERICTON -- A New Brunswick conservation group has released a new report that raises a host of concerns about the impact of the proposed Energy East pipeline on whales and some fisheries in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine.
In the report released Wednesday on the risks the proposed bitumen pipeline poses to ocean environments, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said noise from tanker traffic causes heightened levels of stress for the North Atlantic right whale, the most endangered large whale in the world.
It said studies show that tanker traffic impedes on the whales' ability to communicate, forcing them to "shout" over tanker engines and when the noise reaches a certain level, they are not able to communicate at all.
"Right whales form social groups while in the Bay of Fundy, an important part of their life cycle, relying on their ability to communicate to form these groups," the report by the council's Matthew Abbott said.
The 22-page report said the Bay of Fundy's world-famous tides and thick fog would make it difficult to clean up oil spills quickly.
It provides examples of past spills in the Bay of Fundy, including an incident in February 2007 that was not assessed or tracked due to adverse weather and fog.
It also said bitumen is likely to form into tarballs when mixed with salt water and sink, which could harm fisheries such as bottom-feeding lobster and scallop.
The report said that puts the region's fishing industry at risk. It estimates the Bay of Fundy supports roughly 5,000 fishing jobs.
"The proposed marine terminals, and related tanker traffic, will disrupt and displace existing and future fishing activities especially around Saint John harbour, but also to some extent along the length of the shipping lane through the Bay of Fundy and into the Gulf of Maine affecting fishing activities in Nova Scotia, Maine, and New Brunswick," it said.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including that the federal Fisheries Department conduct an assessment of marine traffic noise in the Bay of Fundy to determine its impact and the potential impact of increased traffic noise on whales and other marine life.
It said Ottawa should also assess its oil spill response capabilities in the Bay of Fundy with respect to the bay's unique characteristics, such as extreme tides and fog.