The tourism ads hype Newfoundland as “the Far East of the Western world,” but its waters are the waste-oil dumps of the Northwest Atlantic
By TONY SEED and GARY ZATZMAN
HALIFAX (March 25, 2004) – THERE ARE 365 islands in Newfoundland’s Placentia Bay. Fog reduces visibility to less than a kilometre an average 187 days a year. Hundreds of oil tankers – almost 300 in the year 2000 alone – enter that body of water and its prime fishing grounds, along with dozens of small fishing boats manned by crews who come from families that have fished the bay for centuries. The amount of shipping will be intensified with construction of the new Inco hydrometallurgical demonstration plant in Argentia in Placentia Bay to process concentrate from Voisey’s Bay, Labrador. It is scheduled to open in 2006.
Right from the time that the Come-by-Chance refinery opened in 1970, fishermen’s livelihoods were severely impacted by federal shipping lanes, which were charted to bring the oil tankers from Cape St. Mary’s through Placentia Bay right through their fishing grounds to the refinery in the fastest amount of time. Fishermen are repeatedly told that they must subordinate their interests to assist economic development in the name of “jobs” and “peaceful coexistence” with oil.
For the tankers, three football fields long, the small fishing boats are mere blips on the screen of the radar. As one fisherman apocryphally said, “don’t make me fish off Cape St. Mary’s.” Continue reading