December 12, 2002


The following statement was issued today by Kevin Aylward, Minister of Environment. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

For the past three weeks or more, oil from a leaking and, ultimately foundered tanker, the Prestige, has fouled the coastal waters and the northwest coast of Spain. As a result, there has been and continues to be environmental and economic hardship - wildlife, fish and shellfish harvesters and markets, the tourism industry and the residents of the coastal communities have been dramatically affected by the pollution.

We in this province must learn from this unfortunate incident.

I am pleased to inform the house that, I have arranged for a delegation from this province to tour the spill sites and to meet with the key people and agencies involved in the response to the spill. The delegation will consist of government officials, spill clean-up contractors, the fishing industry, wildlife recovery teams, townspeople, and the insurance industry.

The site visits are being planned with the input and advice of our colleagues in the Government of Spain and the Canadian Embassy and will take place as soon as practical, anticipated to be within the next 30 days.

There are lessons to be learned from all aspects of this situation. In recognition of this, the delegation from the province will include representatives from government, industry and a non-governmental environmental organizations. The delegation will include representation from the departments of Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture and Mines and Energy. It is significant that senior personnel from various parts of the petroleum industry in this province have indicated that they will participate in this fact finding mission. Representatives from offshore production, tanker operations, transshipment and refinery operations have indicated that they intend to be part of the delegation.

I continue to demand that the federal agencies increase resources to prevent such incidents as has occurred off the coast of Spain. I have pushed for increased surveillance, increased fines, the accelerated introduction of the Automatic Identification System in Canadian waters, and mandatory sea lanes further offshore from our coasts. We have also strongly endorsed a risk analysis to fully examine the risk posed by all vessels travelling in Placentia Bay and along our entire south coast.

Recently the federal government has agreed to initiate this risk analysis. I have indicated to the federal minister our strong interest in this risk analysis and requested a direct role for the province on a steering committee for this significant study.

It is not possible to reduce the risk of an oil spill off our coasts to zero. But we must learn the lessons and seek the means that will reduce this risk to the maximum extent that we can.

2002 12 12                                        1:45 p.m.

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