Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Common dolphins swim in a deep-water canyon known as the Gully off the coast of
Nova Scotia. The Gully was declared a marine protected area Friday, controlled
by federal regulations that prohibit activities harmful to its ecosystem.
Deep water canyon
off N.S. designated protected area
The GullySable Island teems with
fish and rare corals
By KEITH BONNELL
HALIFAX - A deep
underwater ' canyon off the coast of Nova Scotia that's teeming with sea-life
and rich in rare coral has been deemed a protected area by the federal
government. Federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan announced Friday that a can'
yon near Sable Island, known as the Gully, has been declared a marine protected
area under the Oceans Act.
"We are protecting a very
important area that is home to a great diversity of life," Mr. Regan said at a
The designation is meant to guard the
Gully against pollution, fishing and oil and gas exploration that could hurt
the animals and plant life that thrive in its depths.
Located on the edge of the Scotian Shelf, the Gully is
the largest marine canyon in the western North Atlantic.
It is a habitat for sea birds, fish, dolphins, sperm
whales and the endangered northern bottlenose whale. It's also home to 21
identified species of rare deep-sea corals.
"It is a
very important eco system," said Mr. Regan. "It's vital that we protect it."
The Gully is about 80-kilometres-long and
50-kilometres-wide. It reaches down more than 2,500 metres at its mouth.
The news was welcomed by environmentalists, who have
fought for almost a decade to see it protected.
it was a good day. It's a beautiful area, a unique area," said Mark Butler of
the Ecology Action Centre, an East Coast environmental advocacy group.
The Gully is the second of what federal officials hope
will, over the next decade, become a system of 11 marine protected areas on
both Canadian coasts and in the Arctic.
The first was the
Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents off the Pacific coast, announced last year.
Despite taking strong steps to protect the Gully, the
fisheries minister left the door open to possible oil exploration in the outer
areas of the canyon.
Oil rigs and fishing boats are
expected to be prohibited in the core but may be allowed to operate along the
canyon's sandy, shallow banks. Regan said all projects would be evaluated and
assessed for any potential harm they could cause.
Dickey, CEO of the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, said his
organization has not authorized any exploration in the Gully for the several
years, in anticipation of the new, protected designation.
The Primrose field is the only petroleum licence in the
Gully and was classified by the board as a significant discovery in 1985.
It is licensed to Shell, but the rights to the site,
estimated at a value of $35 million, have not been exercised. "It's going to
depend on the individual application and any effects they're going to have on
the Gully," said Mr. Dickey.
"It's not closed entirely."
The boundary lines will also allow some fishing for
swordfish, halibut and shark in the canyon's head and sides and near the banks.
Troy Atkinson, head of the Nova Scotia Swordfishermen's
Association, expressed disappointment with the final boundaries.
He said his group only found out in the late stages of
the process that the whole of the canyon's core would be off limits.