2007 February 9
by Edward French
A petition to have the Canadian government declare the Passamaquoddy Bay ecosystem an emergency marine protected area (MPA) is being circulated in an effort to protect endangered right whales, marine mammals, birds, fish and other species and to prevent the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals around the bay.
"I call it the last chance for Passamaquoddy Bay. We either decide what it will be for the future generations or we let it turn into Fundy super-port," says Art MacKay of St. Andrews, executive director of the St. Croix Estuary Project Inc., who is sponsoring the petition. Noting that freighter traffic is increasing and that there are three LNG proposals for the bay, he believes that within a decade the bay could turn into an industrialized port area. "We should all kiss our fingers and blow them to the wind, because Passamaquoddy Bay will never be the same again. I think it's the last chance."
Noting that six endangered right whales were killed this past year by ship strikes, he says, "We need a place they can go in the spring. We need to protect his bay."
According to MacKay, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn can make the declaration under the federal Oceans Act. While there is no regulatory framework for the submitting of petitions for such a request, MacKay says the petition simply aims to bring the issue to his attention. He is hoping for 10,000 signatures on the petition, which he hopes will be submitted by this spring. MacKay also will be speaking with Member of Parliament Greg Thompson about the proposal.
Maria Buzeta of the Department and Fisheries and Oceans' Biological Station in St. Andrews has compiled documentation on the special areas in the Passamaquoddy Bay area marine environment, according to MacKay. He says that the proposal is part of an initiative for an international marine protected area that would include Cobscook Bay in Maine with Passamaquoddy Bay, Head Harbour Passage and the West Isles of New Brunswick. MacKay believes that the arrangement "could be an international model for how two countries can protect something of significant value."
"It floats back to the marine park proposal," says MacKay, referring to the West Isles Marine Park plan put forward for the Deer Island area in the late 1970s. However, he notes that Parks Canada had the authority to remove people from their property, and the Kouchibouquac National Park in New Brunswick was "exceedingly controversial." Although the province requested that the West Isles Marine Park study by Parks Canada be revised in the early 1990's, no action has been taken recently.
Unlike the marine park proposal, the traditional fisheries, aquaculture and tourism would all be grandfathered in a marine protected area, while large new developments such as LNG terminals would not be, until a future plan is decided on and agreed upon by the communities involved, according to MacKay. The traditional fisheries, aquaculture and tourism would be considered "valued components" of the area that would be threatened by LNG, he says.
Consideration has been given to the need for marine protected areas along the Maine coast, while in Canada the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can establish marine protected areas under the Oceans Act. They are established to protect: commercial and non-commercial fishery resources, including marine mammals, and their habitats; endangered or threatened marine species; unique habitats; and areas of high biodiversity of biological productivity.
The petition states, "The Quoddy ecosystem is threatened by three proposed LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay and the passage of tankers through summer feeding and breeding areas of endangered right whales, finbacks and porpoise, other cetaceans, important marine birds and fishes and nearly 3,000 invertebrate species. Ship strikes took six right whales this year, some in this area. If industrial port development in Passamaquoddy Bay continues, ship strikes will continue to climb."
"A vital Canadian resource can be protected with an emergency MPA. Existing social assets such as traditional fishing, tourism, aquaculture, etc. are maintained by this process. New industrial developments, however, would be forestalled until it is shown that they will not negatively impact the existing natural and social environments. The Government of Canada has publicly opposed the passage of tankers through Head Harbour Passage, which is internal Canadian waters, but there are other pressures for industrial development in Passamaquoddy Bay and the threat will continue."
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.