One of Canada’s largest integrated oil companies said it is not engaged in oil and gas exploration activities in ecologically protected areas of the Canadian Arctic. Shell Canada said it is actually reaching out to government agencies and non-government environmental groups to discussed conservation plans.
Shell’s statement came after the World Wildlife Fund-Canada filled a lawsuit against the company asking the court to block Shell’s request for a renewal of its permits to conduct oil and gas exploration in Lancaster Sound.
Lancaster Sound is considered as one of the world’s richest Arctic marine mammal areas. It is home to some 70,000 narwhals, as well as belugas, bowhead whales, harp seals, ringed seals, and walruses. One of the highest densities of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic is also found in the area. It is also a feeding habitat for seabirds such as ivory gulls, northern fulmars, black-winged kittiwakes and thick-billed murres.
“Currently, Shell has no plans to pursue exploration activities in the Canadian Arctic, and no plans for seismic activities in Lancaster Sound/Baffin Bay regions,” Tara Lemay, media manager for Shell Canada told CGE, It is unfortunate that World Wildlife Fund and EcoJustice have chosen to pursue litigation regarding the validity of Shell’s exploration licences as a means of pursuing their objective.
WWF-Canada contends that the permits held by Shell to operate in the area were issued some 40 years ago and are now expired and invalid. The conservation group is also asking the court to confirm the expiry of the permits.
“So long as these permits are allowed to stand, they will continue to obstruct efforts to ensure Lancaster Sound’s ecosystems and wildlife get the protection they need,” said according to Paul Crowley, WFF-Canada vice-president.
A government moratorium on oil and gas exploration has been in place for nearly 40 years in the Lancaster Sound and Baffin Bay regions, according to Lemay and Shell has not conducted any exploration activities on these lands since the moratorium.
“While we are assessing next steps in this litigation, we are open to constructive engagement with government and other interested parties to make progress on marine conservation efforts in the Canadian Arctic,” she said. “Shell supports the aim of government, indigenous communities, and environmental organisations to establish a Canadian National Marine Conservation Area for Lancaster Sound, and we have been proactively reaching out to the Government of Canada to discuss conservation plans.”