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Changing shipping lanes is not enough to help whales, says lawyer

BY MAC TRUEMAN
Telegraph Journal
July 01/03

   The new international shipping lane that comes into effect today may not be enough to make the Bay of Fundy safe for the northern right whale, lawyer Frank Hogan says.
   Mr. Hogan says this is why he still intends to oppose the natural gas terminal that Irving Oil wants to build at Canaport, even though the new shipping pathway is designed to lead commercial ships around instead of through the area where 80 per cent of right whales feed in the Bay of Fundy.
   The new route is expected to reduce by 80 per cent the number of right whales struck by ships in the bay.
   But Mr. Hogan argues that the large increase in tanker traffic, which the gas terminal would bring to the Bay of Fundy, stands to undo the reduction in whale collisions the new shipping lane is supposed to bring about.
   Mr. Hogan wants the federal environmental impact assessment for the proposed terminal to assess not only how much danger the terminal by itself would pose to the right whale. The assessment must consider all the other hazards posted to these whales in the Bay of Fundy, and determine whether the total risk can be withstood by the whale population.
   "The right whale is obviously in danger, and the Bay of Fundy is one of the most dangerous areas for the right whale. Both of these things are statements that come out of the scientific literature. And yet, we don't appear to be addressing the cumulative impact.
   "It's, `Oh, we'll add another LNG plant, we'll allow a little more fishing here or we'll license some over on the Digby side.'
   "It's not the individual activity, it's the overall thing that's endangering the right whales in this area. So, just changing the shipping lane may not overcome the other dangers ...
   "Maybe we're taking one large step forward, and 10 small steps backwards."
   Daniel Goodwin, Irving Oil spokesman, rejected Mr. Hogan's argument.
   "If you're moving the highway to allow for wildlife to roam in a protected area, it doesn't matter how many vehicles you have on that highway," he said. The gas terminal would bring a tanker ship every five or six days, he said.
   The new lane adds four kilometres to the route to Saint John, and 12 kilometres to pathways leading to Eastport, Me., and Bayside, near St. Andrews. It will force ships to circumvent a 500 square-kilometre patch of sea lying between Grand Manan and Digby that is the main summer feeding ground of these whales.

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