13 October 2006
Sierra Club and Sierra Club of Canada will launch their longawaited North Atlantic right whale protection project at the Fairmont Algonquin Hotel's rustic Right Whale Pub on Friday, October 13, at 7 p.m. (AT). The project, North Atlantic Right Whale BEACON, (Binational Early Alert Coastal Network), will involve Sierra Club member teams from the 16 Atlantic coastal chapters of the two environmental organizations. This international network will monitor the entire coastal range of Eubalaena glacialis and track development projects like harbour expansions, high speed ferry proposals, coastal quarries, Navy sonar testing, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and oil and gas exploration and drilling to ensure that the wellbeing of these marine mammals, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act in the U.S. and the Species At Risk Act in Canada, is taken into consideration before such projects are allowed to proceed.
Spearheading the project is Mark Dittrick, conservation chair of Sierra Club of Canada's Atlantic Canada chapter. "What happens in the Bay of Fundy," says Dittrick, "may be key to whether or not the North Atlantic right whale, with no more than an estimated 350 members, survives as a species. Right now, there are a number of projects we are keenly concerned about.
"Over on the Nova Scotia side of the bay," Dittrick notes, "there is a plan for a very large quarry. A company in New Jersey is looking to extract 2 to 2.5 million tonnes of basalt rock from Digby Neck each year for the next 50 years." Dittrick states that the group is very concerned about the coastal blasting and extra ships added to Bay of Fundy traffic, noting, "No one is sure what impact the acoustic disturbance from blasting will have on whale behaviour, and ship strike is widely recognized as the single greatest human cause of right whale mortality. Two whales have had fatal encounters with vessels in or near the Bay of Fundy in just the last few weeks."
The group is also looking at the two LNG terminals proposed for the Maine side of Passamaquoddy Bay, one at Sipayik, just north of Eastport, and the other at Mill Cove across from Saint Andrews. "If both get green lights," says Dittrick, "it would mean around 230 enormous LNG tankers a year sailing into and out of Passamaquoddy Bay. That's 460 individual transits a year more than one a day plowing through significant right whale habitat between the recently altered Bay of Fundy shipping lanes and Head Harbour Passage. Not good."
© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.