Date: January 24th, 2019
For over 20 years, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) have consistently reported on the impact of seismic surveys on our fishers citing United Nations and other internationally published scientific studies. In 2017, the University of Tasmania presented evidence which argues that “seismic surveys cause significant mortality to zooplankton populations”. All larval krill (zooplankton) were killed after air gun blasts with impacts observed up to a 1.2 km range. Zooplankton are microscopic organisms that “underpin the health and productivity of global marine ecosystems”. To date no studies have been done on the impact on microorganisms in the soil and FFOS suspects similar findings of significant mortality will soon be confirmed. Most studies have only had a superficial concern of reporting on the impact to marine mammals particularly whales, turtles and dolphins without a long hard look at the impact on the lower levels of the food chain. In December 2018 a juvenile sperm whale weighing about 275 pounds and approximately 25 feet in length washed ashore dead in the Essequibo River in nearby Guyana.
Environmentalists in Guyana believed the whale’s death may be linked to seismic surveys that are being undertaken by several oil companies off-shore. More recently, on 14th January 2019, the Times of Israel, reported over 46 marine sea turtles washed ashore suffering from lung and stomach cavity damage.
The article states that “an investigation by the Nature and Parks Authority tracked down the likely culprit — an Italian marine seismic survey. Currently, the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL), are calling on the suspension of seismic testing in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador as the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has found a substantial decline of over 50 per cent in the number of plankton. Our 2018 National Environmental Policy (NEP), which has a force of law, states- “noise generated on land and at sea, shall be managed to avoid significant impact to biodiversity”. Yet in Trinidad and Tobago our honorable Government continues to turn a callous eye (in what appears as abject ignorance) so that oil and gas extractors still do not require any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for conducting seismic surveys. If an EIA is not conducted how will we know the degree of impact on our ecosystems and fishery? We have suffered 19 seismic surveys in the past 3 years! Some approvals were granted within two weeks of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) applications. FFOS respectfully call for responsible leadership and Government, (for the sake of our children’s future) to take this matter seriously, and to adopt a precautionary approach as enshrined in our Law. In the face of deafening new evidence, we cannot allow ‘Big Oil’, a neutered EMA and our Government to continue to use the excuse of a “lack of scientific proof of the impact of seismic surveys” to approve seismic applications willy-nilly without taking measures to protect our fish stocks and ecosystems from potentially irreversible harm. Up to now ‘Big Oil’ has not proven there is no impact of seismic surveys. The burden of proof must be on them. Our Government is reminded that if there is no zooplankton, there are no fish. What is Dr Rowley’s plan B if we permanently destroy our marine ecosystems?