Thursday, December 12, 2013

Coast guard searching for an ROV and ship to investigate oil spill off Change islands: Commons committee

I possed the following questions to Marc Gregoire, Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, on Tuesday, Dec. 10th, when he appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the officials for appearing before the committee.

My first question is for Mr. Grégoire.

One of your answers to one of the questions from across the way was about the number of spills in the run of a year that you deal with.
I believe you used the estimate between 1,200 and 1,400.
I want to talk to you about a specific spill, one off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, off Change Islands back in 1985, 28 years ago. It's been mentioned a number of times in the House of Commons. It was a ship called, the Manolis L.

Are you familiar with the ship?

Mr. Marc Grégoire: Yes.

Mr. Ryan Cleary: There have been a number of attempts since July when that oil leak was discovered to stop the leak including repairs to the hull, neoprene gaskets to the hull, and this sort of thing. There were reports as late as last week that the oil is still leaking, oil-covered birds have been found, and that sort of thing.

Can you elaborate on what's being done and what can be done to stop the fuel from leaking? There's 500 tonnes of oil aboard that vessel so it's a fair amount.

Mr. Marc Grégoire: First of all, we're taking this situation extremely seriously. When we were apprised of the first leak we took action. We hired experts and they recommended to stop the leak the process we have used was the best course of action. It's a cofferdam basically—

Mr. Ryan Cleary: I'm sorry to interrupt.

I'm familiar with what's been done in an attempt to stop the leak. I'm familiar with that so you don't need to go through it. I've got limited time.

What are you going to do now since what's been tried hasn't worked?

Mr. Marc Grégoire: We're not there yet.

To conclude, it hasn't worked. We were there last week and we haven't observed any leak. We have the birds so we sent the birds to the laboratory to find out if the oil from the birds is actually the oil from the Manolis L.. We do have oil samples from the Manolis. We will see after the laboratory has investigated the birds if it's the same oil. It's premature to conclude yet that it is the same thing. We are organizing to send an ROV down to examine the ship to see visually if there is still an oil leak. It's a matter of finding an ROV and a ship to do it. We're organizing that in the short term, in the near future. That is the action we are taking. We don't want any leaks and we're taking whatever action is needed to prevent leaks.

Mr. Ryan Cleary: Thank you very much for that.

My next question is for Ms. Bouffard.

Ms. Bouffard, you appeared before this committee last week and I asked questions about CIDA. I asked about the compensation package from the federal government of Canada, $280 million to Newfoundland and Labrador, for compensation for the elimination of minimum processing requirements. At the time when I asked the question the response I got back was that the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans didn't have anything to do with that compensation package. It was the department of International Trade that arranged that.

I have a question that follows that question from the last meeting. Are there plans to have any meetings with the department that allocated the funds to see how they can be best allocated for the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery to poise the fishery to take advantage of opportunities in Europe?

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Ms. Nadia Bouffard (Acting Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): Not to my knowledge. We're not involved in that arrangement.

Mr. David Bevan: As I pointed out, just to add to that, our responsibility is the management of the fisheries and we really don't want to lose our focus on what our responsibilities are. We want to work in partnership through CCFAM and ACFAM, the governmental arrangements. We want to work in cooperation with the provinces but we want to stick to our knitting which is the management of the fisheries. We're going to leave to other government departments the issue of that fund and how to handle it.

Mr. Ryan Cleary: So DFO is not going to have any input whatsoever on this money that's been set aside for the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries?

Mr. David Bevan: We have no plans to get engaged in that at all at this point.

The Chair: Thank you.

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