Bay du Nord approval shows a lack of regard for sensitive marine ecosystems: WWF-Canada

Offshore oil and gas drilling site planned for ecologically sensitive and biologically significant area

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. April 6, 2022 – WWF-Canada opposes today’s approval of Equinor’s Bay du Nord Development Project, an offshore oil and gas drilling site positioned in an ecologically sensitive and biologically significant area off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, which will have devastating impacts on both nature and climate.

The Flemish Pass, which sits 500 kilometres off the coast of St. John’s, is home to a plethora of marine life, including millions of seabirds and endangered fish, sea turtles and whales. The project, approved today by Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, aims to introduce infrastructure into this sensitive marine environment that will produce hundreds of millions of barrels of oil over its 30-year life span. A major spill could release millions of litres of oil into the North Atlantic, likely decimating marine ecosystems and wildlife and ruining existing and future fishery potential.

An effective cleanup would be virtually impossible in this remote region known for extreme weather conditions. Equipment to cap a well blowout is not required to be kept anywhere near the project, and it would take up to 36 days to ship a capping stack from either Norway or Brazil. Drilling a relief well would take even longer, with an estimate of 100 to 115 days, during which an out-of-control well would release millions of litres of oil into the North Atlantic.

This decision comes days after the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found that we are almost out of time to limit global warming to 1.5oC and that new investments in fossil fuel development and infrastructure are undermining emission reduction efforts. It also ignores findings from the International Energy Agency, which has concluded that no new oil, gas, or coal development can be permitted if the world is to reach net zero emissions by 2050. It’s been estimated that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Bay du Nord development over its lifetime would be the equivalent of those produced by 8 new coal plants.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada acknowledged this project may cause “adverse environmental effects on special areas,” like Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization’s fisheries closures and the Northeast Newfoundland Slope marine refuge. Yet, the agency accepted Equinor’s claims that impacts of accidents and malfunctions — including subsea blowouts like the one that caused the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill, the worst in U.S. history — could be mitigated. A subsequent science review by Fisheries and Oceans Canada found that Equinor’s environmental impact statement was “biased,” contained “inappropriate conclusions” and “is not considered a reliable source of information for decision-making processes.”

Sigrid Kuehnemund, Vice President, Wildlife & Industry at WWF-Canada says: “WWF-Canada is extremely dismayed that Canada would approve such a massive deep-water offshore oil and gas development within vulnerable marine ecosystems that have been set aside for the protection of biodiversity. That such a significant decision is based on a knowingly flawed environmental assessment process shows a lack of regard for the marine ecosystems on which wildlife and fisheries depend.  Any surface spill or well blowout in this region would be impossible to contain or recover, negatively impacting habitats, wildlife, and the fishing industry.”


For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Rebecca Spring, senior communications manager, WWF-Canada
[email protected]


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