Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Marine Refuge Uncertainty Strands Oil Investment off Newfoundland: Ball

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Marine Refuge Uncertainty Strands Oil Investment off Newfoundland: Ball

Article excerpt

Marine refuge confusion costly: Ball

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Uncertainty over federal efforts to protect marine areas has "stranded" offshore oil investment as Newfoundland and Labrador faces an unprecedented cash crunch, Premier Dwight Ball said Tuesday.

Ball told a federal panel his province wants to enhance ocean health but future decisions should be collaborative, timely and based on good science -- not pressure from what he called special interest groups.

Conservationists are pushing for oil and gas restrictions along with other limits in those areas.

Ball says it's a matter of balance.

"We have a lot riding on our ocean industries," he told the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards during its stop in St. John's.

"It's so important to get this right."

Ball said confusion between existing marine refuge zones and potential marine protected areas has "stranded investment" for offshore oil activity.

"We don't need to shut down the economy to be good stewards of our oceans."

Newfoundland and Labrador has 29,000 kilometres of coastline, by far the most in Canada.

Decisions involving the ocean have a disproportionate impact in a province that relies on fishing and offshore oil production, Ball stressed.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only Atlantic province not getting equalization payments from Ottawa as it faces an "unprecedented" fiscal mess since oil prices crashed in 2014, he added.

Charlene Johnson, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil & Gas Industries Association, earlier told the panel that unpredictability threatens offshore momentum.

She cited a particular need for clarity between marine refuge areas -- where certain types of fishing are restricted but oil exploration licences have been issued -- and marine protected areas, which will have regulations still to be determined.

There are now two marine protected areas off Newfoundland and Labrador, with a third proposed for the Laurentian Channel off its southwest coast.

The panel is collecting input for a report due in September to federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and the coast guard. …

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