(Excerpts from two articles in the Nunavut News/North)
Marine Wildlife and Inuit Culture Versus Exploration of Oil and Gas
Resources in the High Arctic
Despite the outcry over the granting of a licence for seismic testing to map potential oil and gas resources in Lancaster Sound, Jones Sound and northern Baffin Bay, few believed anything could be done to stop it. It was even speculated that the only way to stop the testing – a type of testing Inuit said had disrupted whale calving and migration routes in the past – would be to go out in a boat and engage in some sort of Greenpeace guerrilla-style protest.
The ship with the seismic testing equipment on board had already reached the High Arctic and with the following Monday morning being the start day, the case was brought in front of Justice Sue Cooper, Nunavut Court of Justice, by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association on Thursday and Friday.
Sue Cooper handed down her decision Sunday afternoon. Despite the conclusion of the project's environmental impact statement that the seismic testing would have little or no effect on marine mammals, the report itself contained protocols on how to minimize the effects on wildlife. The fact that such protocols exist, Sue Cooper dryly pointed out, imply seismic tests do indeed have effects on marine mammals.
Hunting whales, seal and other marine mammals is part of Inuit livelihood, and an integral part of their culture which Cooper recognized and stated that should the seismic testing disrupt the animals' habits, Inuit would lose a source of food and part of their culture and thus suffer irreparable harm. On the other hand, she concluded the loss suffered by the seismic testing project's proponents... would only be financial.
With Justice Sue Cooper's small 13-page document as a slingshot, Inuit have taken down the Goliath of the Government (Natural Resources Canada).
This means that the Eastern Canadian Arctic Seismic Experiment scheduled to start in the High Arctic is now on hold indefinitely.
We thank you for your wise decision, Sue Cooper!
P.S. The ship RV Polarstern is doing seismic testing now in Greenlandic waters.