Whales and Sound


The enviro shake-down of a Canadian business; [National Edition]
Elizabeth NicksonNational Post. Don Mills, Ont.: Nov 28, 2003. pg. A.18

Abstract (Summary)

Just consider the case of Calgary businessman Paul Einarsson, a man truly under siege. Einarsson owns the only 3-D seismic imaging ship in Canada, staffed by 60 actual Canadians, all making a very good wage. That would be in the past tense, actually, because a few weeks ago, Einarsson laid them off, and called his ship back from its station in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he was supposed to begin a program of seismic blasting aimed at oil and gas exploration

All rubbish and easy enough to refute. But let's talk about whale watching and sound. Seismic testing lasts a few short months once in every decade. Ships cause between 75% and 100% of the sound in water. But as Einarsson points out, the sound of an outboard motor under water is deafening, and such sound from the hundreds of Suzuki- approved whale watching businesses lasts all summer every single year. The engines aren't muffled. Twelve thousand large ships go up and down the St. Lawrence in any given year and last summer there were 108 whale-watching boats pursuing one pod for weeks. Just one pod. Talk about harassment, and damaging breeding patterns.

Full Text

 (806  words)
(Copyright National Post 2003)

enickson@nationalpost.com

In my first day of business school, they told us that Canada was a mercantile nation, and the United States, an industrial nation. The rebel in me rebelled, but eventually I had to accept its truth. We do not hold as a particular value, it seems, our own businesses and the good that can come out of them.

Just consider the case of Calgary businessman Paul Einarsson, a man truly under siege. Einarsson owns the only 3-D seismic imaging ship in Canada, staffed by 60 actual Canadians, all making a very good wage. That would be in the past tense, actually, because a few weeks ago, Einarsson laid them off, and called his ship back from its station in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he was supposed to begin a program of seismic blasting aimed at oil and gas exploration

Had to. A permit that would ordinarily take three months to clear, and cost $30,000, has taken 18 months, cost $500,000 and still no end in sight. "In terms of money lost, add another million in stand-by time and all my capital tied up." The Gulf is starting to ice up, another season lost. "I've already agreed to work in the worst part of the year for me, so to limit any damage on marine mammals and fish."

Who's on his side? No one. Well, me. And I found one editorial in the Montreal Gazette saying seismic waves will not kill whales. Well duh. No one has ever been able to find a beached whale whose beaching was definitely caused by seismic testing. That fact is in the literature, in vast and expansive detail, pages and pages and pages of it, from every country with off-shore drilling.

Never mind. Sense has never really meant much in the enviro shake- down industry. As Paul Martin's enviro guru, Maurice Strong said in Time magazine two weeks ago, "industrial civilization ...has gone terribly wrong." Compared to what, Mr. Strong?

But herein lies the bias. Arrayed against Mr. Einarsson are the usual suspects: Suzuki, Sierra, Greenpeace, all of whom should have any tax status pulled, various and sundry obscure whale professors, and a whole bunch of self-appointed, self-important folk operating under important-sounding initials.

The Quebec media, being anti-business of any sort, especially Calgary business, signed on in the usual droves. Windmills. Solar cells. No oil. Spills, dead fish, horrible loud sounds, chemical seepage. Dead whales.

All rubbish and easy enough to refute. But let's talk about whale watching and sound. Seismic testing lasts a few short months once in every decade. Ships cause between 75% and 100% of the sound in water. But as Einarsson points out, the sound of an outboard motor under water is deafening, and such sound from the hundreds of Suzuki- approved whale watching businesses lasts all summer every single year. The engines aren't muffled. Twelve thousand large ships go up and down the St. Lawrence in any given year and last summer there were 108 whale-watching boats pursuing one pod for weeks. Just one pod. Talk about harassment, and damaging breeding patterns.

Let's talk spills. There have been no recorded spills from offshore oil wells in Canada or the United States, where they are heavily regulated. But small boat engines? One hundred and thirty seven million gallons. Used engine oil and road run-off? Three hundred and sixty three million gallons. Let's ignore for a moment all the tankers delivering foreign oil to Quebec City, seeping oil from poorly regulated operations, produced with slave labour, all the way across the Atlantic. But producing local oil and clean gas, which is produced under the cleanest conditions yet invented? Forget it.

To reorder these priorities, we would need an environment minister who used his brain. David Anderson, who by the way represents Oak Bay, berth to the most left-wing, supposedly environmentally-conscious, ever-so-virtuous university in the country. Oak Bay lies within Victoria, a city which relies on tourism, especially eco-tourism, and pumps raw sewage right into the ocean.

"Where's the money going to come from?" asks Einarsson. "Gas is the cleanest fuel we have available. How are we going to pay for a cleaner environment if we stop local energy production? Somehow we're going to magically raise taxes on people who are broke because we've stunted the economy? That's what's going to pay for environmental measures? There will be seismic testing in the Gulf. But I'll be out of business. My competitors on foreign ships will do it. They use slave labour, who are paid one-third of what I pay my workers, who eat potatoes and stay on board for six months to a year, while mine are rotated every six weeks ... Those guys are the only ones who can afford to jump the hoops DFO Quebec sets up."

And that's how Canada kills its own.