[Sust-mar] Sierra Club and Sierra Club of Canada Launch International Right Whale Protection Project at the Fairmont Algonquins Right Whale Pub

mark dittrick markd at sierraclub.ca
Mon Oct 9 15:49:03 EDT 2006

Sierra Club and Sierra Club of Canada Launch International Right Whale Protection 
Project at the Fairmont Algonquin’s Right Whale Pub

Sierra Club and Sierra Club of Canada have found perhaps the perfect place to launch 
their long-awaited North Atlantic right whale protection project:  the Fairmont 
Algonquin Hotel’s rustic Right Whale Pub.  The hotel’s website notes that its salty 
subterranean drinking establishment is “named in honor of our colleagues and their 
efforts to save the famous Right Whale of the Bay of Fundy.”  The launch will take place 
on Friday, October 13, at 7:00pm.

The Sierra Club/Sierra Club Canada project is called North Atlantic Right Whale BEACON, 
the last part of the name standing for Bi-national Early Alert Coastal Network.  The 
network will consist of teams of Sierra Club members drawn from the 16 Atlantic Coastal 
chapters of the two environmental organizations, chapters that look out onto the 
migratory route of the right whale, the most endangered large whale on earth.  This 
unique international network will monitor the entire coastal range of Eubalaena 
glacialis and track development projects like harbour expansions, high speed ferry 
proposals, coastal quarries, Navy sonar testing, liquified natural gas terminals and oil 
and gas exploration and drilling to insure that the well-being of these marine mammals, 
which are protected under the Endangered Species Act in the U.S. and the Species At Risk 
Act in Canada, is taken into consideration before such projects are allowed to proceed.

Spearheading the project is Mark Dittrick, the Conservation Chair of the Atlantic Canada 
Chapter of Sierra Club of Canada.  Dittrick is also the Sierra Club of Canada liaison to 
the Sierra Club U.S.’s Atlantic Coast Ecoregion (ACE) Task Force, the entity that serves 
as the umbrella for the project.

“What happens in the Bay of Fundy,” says Dittrick, “may be key to whether or not the 
North Atlantic right whale, with no more than an estimated 350 members, survives as a 
species.  Right now, there are a number of projects we are keenly concerned about. 

“Over on the Nova Scotia side of the bay,” Dittrick notes, “there is a plan for a very 
large quarry.  A company in New Jersey is looking to extract 2 to 2.5 million tonnes of 
basalt rock from Digby Neck each year for the next 50 years.  The plan is to blow it out 
of the province’s North Mountain, grind it up and then ship it to New Jersey for road 
building. We are very concerned about coastal blasting and the extra ships added to Bay 
of Fundy traffic.  No one is sure what impact the acoustic disturbance from blasting 
will have on whale behaviour, and ship strike is widely recognized as the single 
greatest human cause of right whale mortality.  Two whales have had fatal encounters 
with vessels in or near the Bay of Fundy in just the last few weeks.”

North Atlantic Right Whale BEACON is also looking at the two LNG terminals proposed for 
the Maine side of Passamaquoddy Bay, one at Sipayik, the Passamaquoddy Reservation just 
north of Eastport, and the other at Mill Cove across from Saint Andrews.  “If both get 
green lights,” says Dittrick, “it would mean around 230 enormous LNG tankers a year 
sailing into and out of Passamaquoddy Bay.  That’s 460 individual transit’s a year--more 
than one a day--plowing through significant right whale habitat between the recently 
altered Bay of Fundy shipping lanes and Head Harbour Passage. Not good!”

Dittrick will be talking about these and other problematic projects and delivering a 
powerful PowerPoint called “Monitoring coastal development with protecting the North 
Atlantic right whale in mind.”  After the Canadian launch at the Right Whale Pub, he 
will be off to the annual gathering of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium in New 
Bedford, Massachusetts, and then on to a speaking tour along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard 
from Florida to Maine.


A Publication of the Georgia Environmental Policy Institute

Number 2 May 2006

Sierra Club and Sierra Club of Canada Launch New
International Right Whale Protection Project

By Mark Dittrick*

The U.S. Sierra Club and Sierra Club of Canada have combined resources to create a 16-
chapter network, called North Atlantic Right Whale BEACON, which will keep tabs on 
coastal and offshore developments that might pose a threat to the North Atlantic right
whale. The acronym stands for Binational Early Alert Coastal Network. The 15 Sierra Club 
chapters along the Atlantic Coast and the Atlantic Canada Chapter of Sierra Club of
Canada, with a combined membership of almost a quarter of a million, will be “monitoring 
coastal development with protecting the North Atlantic right whale in mind.”

The project is an initiative of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Coast Ecoregion Task Force.
Developments already being scrutinized include a large basalt quarry proposed for the 
Bay of Fundy side of Nova Scotia’s Digby Neck, and three separate proposals for LNG
(liquefied natural gas) terminals on the Maine side of Passamaquoddy Bay.

Concerns regarding the Nova Scotia quarry, which would extract up to 2.5 million tons of
aggregate for export by sea to New Jersey for road building and concrete manufacture,
include the potential effects of blasting near the shoreline on marine mammals, including
summering right whales, and the ships that would be added to the recently altered Bay of
Fundy shipping lanes. The quarry would add a large bulk carrier a week to the lanes. The
project is currently undergoing the highest level of federal assessment in Canada, a full
panel review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Should the quarry
receive the necessary permits to operate, more coastal quarries along the North 
Mountain, a 125-kilometer basalt ridge, would likely be developed – and with them more 
blasting and more ships.

If all three of the proposed Maine LNG terminals win FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission) approval, as many as 280 large LNG tankers per year would be added to the 
Bay of Fundy shipping lanes. The ships would then travel through a 25-mile-or-so stretch 
of water where right whales are frequently spotted to reach the passage between Canada’s 
Deer Island and Campobello Island leading into Passamaquoddy Bay.

Most of the projects that come to BEACON’s attention will likely not pose any serious
threats to right whales. Some will need to be addressed with an eye toward mitigating
potential risks. And a few will need to be opposed. The mega-quarry planned for Digby
Neck is one of those. That project will create maybe 30 jobs in Nova Scotia while
providing aggregate for roads and residential development in an already sprawl-plagued
state, New Jersey. The size and nature of the project are inappropriate for the unspoiled
nature of the area, local fisheries will be adversely impacted, and the dubious need for 
the project does not warrant the risk to the whales.

The same applies to the LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay. There are already three
LNG projects in Atlantic Canada either approved or on the verge of approval that will 
feed enough natural gas into the area’s existing pipeline to more than meet the 
foreseeable needs of the region. The proposed Maine projects are not even required. If 
they are permitted, the 560 annual transits through right whale habitat will constitute 
a truly needless ship strike risk to the whales.

On January 26, a New York-based company announced a new LNG project that calls for
building a 53-acre, man-made island 35.5 miles south of Long Beach, Long Island, and 19 
miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. This is obviously a project North Atlantic Right 
Whale BEACON will be taking a good hard look at.

Among other developments currently of interest to North Atlantic Right Whale BEACON are 
the recent expansion of fast ferry service between Maine and Canada, a number of 
proposed harbor expansion projects along the Atlantic Coast, a potential wind farm off 
Georgia and a plan for a major marina near the North Atlantic right whale’s winter 
calving area. BEACON participants are also working with other Sierra Club entities and 
other NGO’s concerned with whale entanglement and the Navy’s ongoing plans for a sonar 
training range off North Carolina.

*Editor’s note: Mark Dittrick is a spokesperson for North Atlantic Right Whale
BEACON and Conservation Chair of Sierra Club of Canada’s Atlantic Canada Chapter.
Starting this fall, he will begin touring through Atlantic states and provinces, talking 
about coastal and offshore threats to the North Atlantic right whale and helping to 
organize local volunteer BEACON teams. He can be reached at markd at sierraclub.ca.

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