Credit: Photographic Services, Shell International Limited


An Environmental Assessment (EA) is required as part of the activity authorization for exploration and development programs in the Nova Scotia Offshore. The EA process predicts environmental effects of proposed physical activities before they are carried out. EAs identify potential adverse environmental effects, propose measures to mitigate adverse environmental effects, predict whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects after mitigation measures are implemented, and typically include a follow-up program to verify the accuracy of predictions and the effectiveness of mitigation measures.

EAs in the Nova Scotia offshore area are governed by the Federal/Provincial Accord Acts and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012). Part III of the Accord Acts promotes environmental protection. The Accord Act EA process is applicable to geophysical and geotechnical programs, including seismic programs. CEAA 2012 applies to “Designated Projects” as defined by that Act, namely exploration drilling programs, development programs and some decommissioning programs.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which includes information on potential adverse environmental effects and associated potential mitigation within these parcel areas was completed by the Board in June, 2016. The parcels are adjacent to St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the Laurentian Channel Area of Interest (AOI), and future critical habitat for species at risk (leatherback turtle). Whales transit the area during the summer months.

The parcels include areas used by a range of commercial and Aboriginal fisheries, including North American snow crab fisheries. 

It is recommended that the information within the SEA be used by operators to assist in the preparation of project specific environmental assessments. 

Strategic Environmental Assessment for Sydney Basin and Orpheus Graben Areas

For more information on St. Anns Bank, please click here:

For more information on the Laurentian channel, please click here:

For more information on Leatherback Sea Turtle please click here:

Species at Risk

Portions of all of the parcels are known to have year-round or migratory presence of a number of species with protections under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). These include, but are not limited to:  

  • Blue Whale
  • North Atlantic Right Whale 
  • Fin Whale
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Atlantic Wolffish
  • Spotted Wolffish
  • Northern Wolffish
  • [Great] White Shark 

Project specific EAs will be required to address potential for interaction. Bidders are also strongly encouraged to gain an understanding of the SARA, which is enforced by DFO and Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Act and associated species’ registry is available by clicking here:

Statement of Canadian Practice with Respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment (the Statement)

The mitigation measures contained in this Statement were developed based on available scientific knowledge and are considered to be current best practice for minimizing potential adverse impacts of seismic activities that use air source arrays. The Statement is taken into account during the environmental assessment processes. Operators of seismic operations will be required to provide rationale for any modifications or variations to the mitigation measures that are set out in the Statement for consideration by the CNSOPB. The Statement and a background paper are available by clicking here:

As noted above, any approved activity near MPAs or AOIs, and/or areas with an increased likelihood of interaction with species at risk may require enhanced mitigation above and beyond the Statement.