New study says Energy East Pipeline would hurt whales

New study says Energy East Pipeline would hurt whales

North Atlantic right whale breaching in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, May 2009. (Image courtesy of New Bedford Whaling Museum)

TransCanada Corp.’s (TSX:TRP) proposed Energy East Pipeline may hurt whales and some fisheries in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, a report from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick says.

According to the study, noise from tanker traffic causes heightened levels of stress for the North Atlantic right whale, the world’s most endangered large whale, as it hinders the mammal’s ability to communicate.

“Right whales form social groups while in the Bay of Fundy, an important part of their life cycle, relying on their ability to communicate to form these groups,” the report by the council’s Matthew Abbott said.

But Tim Duboyce, Energy East spokesman for TransCanada said the council is just trying to duplicate concerns that ended up causing TransCanada to cancel plans for an export terminal in Cacouna, Quebec.

He added that certain facts, such as whales locations and numbers, are "overlooked or exaggerated."

New study says Energy East Pipeline would hurt whales

The 22-page report also argues that the Bay of Fundy’s world-famous tides and thick fog would make it difficult to clean up oil spills quickly. (Image courtesy of BayofFundy.com)

TransCanada’s proposal is to convert one of its existing natural-gas pipelines into a 4,600-kilometre oil pipeline — dubbed Energy East — that would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Hardisty, Alberta, to Saint John, New Brunswick. From there, crude would either be exported through a terminal co-owned by TransCanada and Irving Oil Ltd., or refined at Irving's refinery.

The company insists that the proposed export terminal is not in the whales critical habitat, which makes “a huge difference," he told CBC News:

“The shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy were already moved out of the critical habitat of right whales about 10 years ago, and since then, there hasn't been a single reported ship strike and whale populations have increased.”

The 22-page report also argues that the Bay of Fundy’s world-famous tides and thick fog would make it difficult to clean up oil spills quickly.

The council’s document makes a number of recommendations, including that the federal Fisheries Department conduct an assessment of marine traffic noise in the Bay of Fundy to determine its impact and the potential impact of increased traffic noise on whales and other marine life.

New study says Energy East Pipeline would hurt whales

Proposed route.