My letter addresses the controversial topic of proposed oil exploration in the fishing villages (Sally’s Cove/St. Paul’s/Trout River) next to Gros Morne National Park.
These are fundamental fishing communities on the west coast of Newfoundland and are part of a region where cultural tourism is taking place during the short summer months.
Having been an enthusiastic tourist myself from Ontario to St. John’s and Gros Morne National Park in the recent past, I was very disappointed to learn that hydraulic fracturing is planned as the method of extracting oil in these fishing communities just outside a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new method of extracting oil, via stimulation or underground explosions known as “fracking.”
Indeed, it is really new in cases associated to onshore to offshore exploration.
Researchers in the United States have identified and associated serious health problems with hydraulic fracturing.
The most commonly reported are: contamination of surface water, threats to fisheries and wildlife, toxic spills at drilling sites as well as radioactive waste. (You really want this close to a national park?)
Documented independent reports and studies in the field of oil exploration, especially via hydraulic fracturing, leads me to believe that this will be a major problem for the fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and will undoubtedly have a direct effect on the viability of the fishing stock due to seismic activity and drilling, let alone the health risks to the community.
The company involved, Shoal Point Energy Ltd., has already presented its plan for oil exploration in October and November past, to the communities of Rocky Harbour and Cow Head.
Based on company’s reports, their plan is to have, at full production phase, one well per 10 kilometres on the west coast of Newfoundland, from Parson’s Pond to Lark Harbour in the Bay of Island. Indeed, one well for each 10 kilometres of the coastline!
Perhaps some of us are missing the point here, but the combination of flares burning gas along the highways next to Gros Morne, with the high probability of health problems and contaminated water for visiting tourists, in addition to negative ads about “fracking in Gros Morne” on YouTube, does not sound like an effective marketing strategy for the tourism industry.
Personally, I am not sure I want to have a family vacation in Newfoundland if this is happening.
If this occurs or is seriously considered, I suggest it will have a serious, negative impact on the tourism industry and
on the image Newfoundland and Labrador puts forth internationally in advertising Gros Morne as a special place.
In this instance, it appears that the two notions of oil exploration and tourism cannot co-exist.
Donald McRae writes from Toronto.