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LNG proposals pose little threat to right whale population: biologist

BY MAC TRUEMAN
Telegraph-Journal
September 01/05

    Despite the concern of a local marine biologist, one of No th Ameri ca's most eminent whale scientists says a liquefied natural gas plant on Passamaquoddy Bay would not be a significant threat to the North Atlantic right whales that summer in the Bay of Fundy.
   Moira Brown, is senior scientist in right whale research for the New England Aquarium, in Boston. For many years she has been coming every summer to the Bay of Fundy or to the Rose y Basin, off the southern tip of Nova Scotia near Yarmouth, to study the right whale population here.
   She took part with Transport Canada and Irving Oil in moving shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy away from a 500-square kilometre patch of sea lying between Grand Manan and Digby where 80 per cent of visiting right whales feed in the summer.
   The lanes, which are the internationally designated highways for commercial vessels, were moved in 2002. And her work got her nominated for a 2003 Canadian Environment Award.
   She said in an interview that these new lanes will keepships away from the area immediately east of Grand Manan where most of the Bay of Fundy right whales congregate at this time of year - even ships going to a proposed Maine LNG port in Passamaquoddy Bay.
   But a Passamaquoddy LNG terminal might pose a threat to whalewatch boats operating out of St. Andrews, she said.
   The LNG terminals that have been proposed by U.S. interests for three sites in Passamaquoddy Bay are "not really" a concern for the right whale, since these ships will be required to stick to the shipping lane.
   The new pathway adds four kilometres to the route to the Port of Saint John. It adds 20 kilometres for ships sailing to the Passamaquoddy ports of Bayside, N.B., and Eastport, Me.
   "It's an area near the right whale congregation, but it's certainly not an area that right whales frequent"
   The last right whale to be sighted inside Passamaquoddy Bay was in 1971 and another right whale was seen off Campobello in October a couple years ago.
   "One sighting in 30 years, I guess, is pretty rare," she said of Passamaquoddy.
   Ms. Brown said whale-watch operators in St. Andrews may be concerned: about the LNG proposals, since these tour boats must travel through Passamaquoddy Bay to get to the areas off Campobello Island where minke whales, fin whales and harbour porpoises can be spotted.
   Because of the security required in moving these tankers of highly flammable fuel, other vessels are usually kept away when an LNG ship is scheduled to go through.
   Art MacKay, a marine biologist and conservationist and a member of the Save Passamaquoddy Bay campaign, warned last month that a Passamaquoddy LNG terminal would disturb a number of animal species, including the right whale.

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