The recently cancelled seismic testing scheduled for the Douglas Channel area, has been greeted with surprise and disappointment by the Provincial government. The tests were designed to learn more about how the northwestern part of the continent was formed, but were deep sixed when concerns about whales and marine life were raised.
The decision to cancel has Richard Neufeld, the provinces minister of Mines and Resources scratching his head. The Daily News provided a bit of background on the tests and some detail as to the concerns by the minister over their cancellation.
Minister laments Ottawa’s batholiths decision
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, March 30, 2007
The provincial Minister of Energy and Mines is disappointed with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision not to allow seismic testing off the province’s North Coast.
“The federal government has been a bit disappointing,” said Richard Neufeld. “It absolutely astounds me that the federal government allows this on the East Coast, in the gulf of St. Lawrence ... all over the place. They have done the work.
“But when it comes to British Columbia, they are hands off.”
Earlier this month, a study that would have used marine seismic testing in the Douglas Channel to explore how continents are formed was called off because of concerns about the potential impact on whales from loud noises.
Canada’s National Science and Engineering Research Council has withdrawn its application for an environmental assessment of seismic testing to explore how batholiths — large bodies of rock — interact with the pre-existing crust of the continents.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada claimed there is a lack of sufficient and appropriate data to determine whether or not the testing would result in harm to marine creatures, particularly those recently listed under the Species At Risk Act, including orcas, fin whales and humpback whales.
The department said it would take four years to complete its assessments — called recovery potential assessments — on the West Coast, despite the fact that these studies have already been completed by DFO on the East Coast and seismic testing is permitted there.
Neufeld said the study, had it gone ahead, would have been a good opportunity to gather all kinds of information about the North Coast.
“There’s a whole void of information there. It amazes me to be perfectly honest and I am a bit disappointed. When the project was promoted I thought this would be good because we will be able to garner some good science from it finding out what is in that area and what isn’t, all those kind of things,” he said.
Seismic testing uses airguns to emit noises that are then measured to provide two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of the composition of the continent.
The B.C. government is interested in developing many offshore resources such as tidal and wind power as well as offshore oil and gas. Although those involved with the batholiths project explained that science for oil and gas exploration could not have been gleaned form their research, questions have now been raised about any seismic testing that would give government and industry a clearer picture of the resources in the Queen Charlotte Basin.
“We have been trying to work with two different federal governments in moving that file forward, so we can actually start getting some science along the coast,” said Neufeld. “We are doing some of it ourselves through the University of Victoria and University of British Columbia so we can get some of the information we need.”
In 2007, British Columbia in the new BC Energy Plan re-affirmed its commitment to offshore oil and gas exploration and development, its request to Canada to lift the federal moratorium and reiterated that the provincial moratorium will be lifted at the same time.