Pollutants blamed for Port au Port Bay scallop fishery collapse

Frank Gale fgale@thewesternstar.com
Published on February 7, 2014
A pipe from a former well drilled at Shoal Point is see jutting out of the water, from which some local people believe petroleum could be leaking into Port au Port Bay.
Submitted photo

Local fish harvesters believe that environmental pollutants, possibly from oil and industrial developments in the area, may be contributing to the drastic decline in scallops in Port au Port Bay.

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee intends to act on its concerns about the collapse of the scallop fishery and threats to the local marine ecosystem. The committee, which met earlier this week in Port au Port East, has created subcommittees and an action plan to deal with its concerns.

Scallop fisher harvesters in the Port au Port Bay region reported never before experiencing such a widespread collapse of the scallop fishery in the bay. Now, laboratory test results on scallops submitted to the federal Department of Fisheries last November came back inconclusive in relation to the cause of the collapse.

The group said in a prepared release that it’s disappointed the scallops were not tested for petroleum contaminants. Fish harvesters also report sea urchins have gone and there is a decline in rock crab.

Committee member Gus Hynes said in the release that he and his crew are quite concerned that developments have been occurring around Port au Port Bay without due regard to the impact on scallops and other marine species.

He believes past government environmental assessments done under the jurisdiction of the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board are not adequately protecting fishery interests and the marine environment.

The 2007 Environmental Assessment for the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program at Shoal Point makes no mention of the potential high risk and vulnerability of the site to tidal surges, coastal erosion and other impacts from extreme weather related to climate change.

Bill O'Gorman, scallop diver and fishery committee spokesperson, said the name of the area "Shoal" Point should have warranted at least some reference in the 2007 Environmental Assessment to the risk involved with drilling at such a vulnerable site.

“The alarming fact is that drilling was approved on an exposed shoal at the tip of a point jutting out some eight kilometres towards the centre of Port au Port Bay," he said.

O'Gorman believes the environmental and health risks of oil drilling on a shoal are more serious today due to increasing extreme weather, rising ocean levels and tidal surges.