Georges Bank moratorium extended by Nova Scotia government

Moratorium extended for another 7 years, but fisheries and environmental groups want permanent protection

Fish being sold at a farmer's market in Halifax. The seafood industry in one of Nova Scotia's most valuable markets.
Fish being sold at a farmer’s market in Halifax. The seafood industry in one of Nova Scotia’s most valuable markets.   Steve Large

Fisheries and environmental groups in Nova Scotia are happy to see the provincial government extend the oil and gas drilling moratorium on Georges Bank, one of the richest fishing sites in the world, until the end of 2022.

Susanna Fuller, marine conservation coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, said the extension is a good start but wants more from the government.

“We understood that this was going to happen, and we’re happy that it has,” she said. “I think we would prefer that it be in perpetuity because those are those most valuable fishing areas that we have.”

The existing moratorium is set to expire on Dec. 31, according to a Thursday press release from the Nova Scotia government. The government will also be able to extend the moratorium in 10-year increments.

“Nova Scotians have been very clear about wanting the moratorium to remain in place,” said Energy Minister Michel Samson in the release. “The Georges Bank fishery supports an important part of our rural and provincial economy, and this legislation will ensure this area remains protected for the long-term sustainability of these important fishing grounds.”

Georges Bank has year-round activity and its role in the seafood industry is extremely valuable to Nova Scotia, said Nathan Blades, president of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association.

“If you were to take the entire seafood industry of Nova Scotia, you would be well north of $1 billion,” said Blades. “We’re talking multiple billions in economic value. Why would we want to risk Georges Bank?”

Blades said most of the efforts to protect Georges Bank go toward extending moratoriums.

“As far as I know, there’s no active lobbying to make Georges Bank a permanently protected area,” he said.

Blades worries that if the moratorium expired, Georges Bank would be unprotected.

“It would [then] be possible that exploration could be allowed,” he said.

Blades said he’s not against drilling, but he wants more regulation for oil companies doing drilling outside Georges Bank

“I want oil companies to have a better plan,” he said, adding he’d like to see the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board implement strict regulations..

Blades does not want there to be any drilling on Georges Bank, period.

“We want it left alone,” he said.

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