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 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 Acts 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.
Amendments were made to the Accord Acts in 2013 to include specific protections for the Sable Island National Park Reserve with respect to oil and gas activities. Should any exploration licences ultimately be issued, an oil and gas company must demonstrate that they will be able to perform the work in a safe and environmentally responsible manner before any authorization would be provided by the CNSOPB, with specific consideration to proximity to the Sable Island National Park Reserve. If the CNSOPB were to receive an application for an authorization to conduct exploration activity in the Sable Island National Park Reserve, the CNSOPB must consult with Parks Canada on the potential impacts, in accordance with the Accord Acts legislation. The Sable Island National Park Reserve is also designated, under the Species at Risk Act, as critical habitat of the Roseate Tern and the Ipswich Sparrow, when these birds are nesting on the Island.
Both of the NS 18-3 parcels are within the vicinity of the Gully Marine Protected Area. Appropriate mitigation measures are suggested in the existing Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA).
Some endangered and threatened species of whales transit along the shelf slope break through the parcels into the Laurentian Channel in the summer months, including the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.
The parcels include areas used by the fishing industry, such as pelagic fisheries.
It is recommended that the information within the SEA be used by operators to assist in the preparation of project specific environmental assessments.
For more information on SEA, please click here.
For more information on the Gully Marine Protected Area, 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. These include, but are not limited to: Blue Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale, Fin Whale, Leatherback Sea Turtle, Atlantic Wolffish, Spotted Wolffish, Northern Wolffish and the White Shark.
Project specific EAs will be required to address potential for interaction. Bidders are also strongly encouraged to gain an understanding of the Species at Risk Act, which is enforced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The Species at Risk 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 Statement of Canadian Practice with Respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Area (Statement) contains mitigation measures for the potential effects of seismic activity, and was based on the best available science when developed. Adherence to the Statement is required for seismic programs, at a minimum, and enhanced mitigation beyond that stated in the Statement may be required. Additionally, 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 Marine Protected Areas (MPA), and/or areas with an increased likelihood of interaction with species at risk, may require enhanced mitigation above and beyond this Statement.