Fishermen Hold Protest To Stop Seismic Testing

By Nancy King
Cape Breton Post - Front Page
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2003

PORT HASTINGS - With seismic blasting imminent off the west coast of Cape Breton, fishermen made one last attempt to show their opposition by protesting at the Canso Causeway, Friday.

More than 60 fishermen carrying signs with messages including “CNSOPB Fish Killers,” and “Science not Seismic,” lined the stretch of road leading into the rotary near the causeway, slowing eastbound traffic entering the island for a brief time during the early afternoon.

With the seismic vessel GSI Admiral, contracted by Corridor Resources, already on site and awaiting a break in the weather before proceeding with the program, protesters knew there was likely little they could do to prevent it from going ahead.

“It’s a rally and show of support for the fishing industry,” said Osborne Burke, spokesman for the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association.
“We want to send a message to the provincial and federal levels of government that fishermen are still opposed to the blasting. We want to let them know the industry is not pleased.”

But because the testing hadn’t begun yet, Burke said it may not be too late if levels of government decided to take up the cause.

While the seismic testing is to take place in waters off Cheticamp, protesters chose to set up their picket at the Canso Causeway, the road entry point to Cape Breton Island and a historically popular and high-profile venue for protesters.

Demonstrators noted that any impact the seismic program may have on the marine ecosystem would affect fishermen from across the island.

Environmentalists, fishermen and tourist operators have argued against exploring on three near shore leases off Cape Breton.

Poor weather hampers seismic testing

The Canada-Nova Scotia Off- shore Petroleum Board issued a permit in late November to Halifax-based Corridor Resources to conduct a six-day seismic program in shallow waters about 15 kilometres off the island's west coast. The work must be carried out by Feb. 28. So far, the testing has been hampered by poor weather.

The seismic survey is done by towing an array of air horns from the back of a ship with devices that sense gas or oil -bearing strata. Fishermen are particularly worried the powerful sound blasts that are dragged behind a boat will scare away fish and harm snow crabs since the sound will go directly over a snow crab nursery.

Even if the seismic program goes ahead, Burke said the fishermen's fight isn't over and will continue if oil or gas is found and development goes ahead. "This is just one of the many battles that we will be fighting," he said. "We're not opposed to oil and gas development, but not in the inshore."

The protest came a day after a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice denied a Mi'kmaq elder's request for an interim injunction preventing seismic testing until additional consultation with aboriginals took place.

Before starting the picket, organizers conferred with Port Hawkesbury RCMP over how the protest would be carried out. "They're going to do it anyway," Parks said, about RCMP co-operation with the protesters. "They have a right to peaceful protest. At the end of the day, we want to have a safe event."

Most motorists are understanding, Parks said, when protests slow but don't entirely shut down traffic.