Newfoundland and Labrador
Reference Library – Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador
SHELBURNE, N.S. It was once the notorious flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, used by vigilante environmentalists to enforce marine conservation on the high seas. But the MV Farley Mowat is now an environmental hazard itself. The 60-year-old boat sits rusting at dock in Shelburne, N.S., where it is at risk of sinking and poses an imminent pollution threat to the environment, according to the federal government. The Canadian Coast Guard announced Friday it will issue a contract to remove and dispose of the Farley Mowat, after years of trying in vain to force the owner, scrap dealer Tracy Dodds, to do it.
Our shoreline and the water are a part of who we are It is a very welcome relief for the people of Shelburne, the local Liberal MP, Bernadette Jordan, said in a statement.
The black-painted ship has been in the picturesque town for three years, after being seized at gunpoint by the RCMP seven years ago. It was part of a small, militant fleet commanded by Canadian environmental crusader Paul Watson, who at the time was described as a terrorist by former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams. On April 12, 2008, an RCMP tactical squad stormed the ship and accused its captain and chief officer of violating Canadian law by getting too close to the annual seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Watson, then in New York, said the arrests amounted to an act of war. He argued that his vessel registered in the Netherlands never entered Canada s 12-nautical-mile territorial limit, but Ottawa said the Fisheries Act gave it the authority to take action beyond that line. The Fisheries Department later said its 98-metre icebreaker CCGS Des Groseilliers was grazed twice by the Farley Mowat during a tense encounter on the ice-covered waters. But the conservation group insisted its ship was rammed twice by the icebreaker.
Watson s group has long used high-profile, vigilante tactics to stop hunters from killing seals, whales and other marine wildlife around the globe. Its logo is a stylized skull, much like a pirate s Jolly Roger. The Farley Mowat s senior officers were released from a Cape Breton jail in April 2008 after the ship s namesake, Canadian author Farley Mowat, posted their $10,000 bail. The pair were later fined $23,000 each, though they were deported before they were sentenced. As for the ship, the former Norwegian fisheries research vessel was sold for $5,000 in 2009 and was supposed to be refitted. But that never happened. It later showed up in Lunenburg in 2010 and then in Shelburne harbour in September 2014.
On June 25, 2015, the ship sank at its berth, forcing the coast guard to mount a $500,000 cleanup effort that saw the vessel refloated. More than 2,000 litres of pollutants were eventually removed from the hull. But a survey last month found oil-contaminated water in most of the tanks and determined that based on the vessel s current condition, it is at risk of polluting if left unattended, the coast guard said Friday. Dodds has failed to comply with court orders, and the coast guard had given him until last Monday to come up with a plan to address the pollution threat.
Ottawa said it will try to recover costs from Dodds, and will monitor the vessel until it is removed and disposed.
Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the move is part of the government s new Oceans Protection Plan to remove abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels from the marine environment.
Last week Canada s Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau released its long-anticipated defense policy review, setting out its vision for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) over the next decade. In a surprise to many, it sets out an aggressive approach to rebuilding the forces. More money is earmarked for special forces, cyber defense and surveillance, with additional billions promised for new warships, soldiers and fighter jets.
One of the few areas to see no sweeping changes, or major capital allocation, was the Arctic. This stands in stark contrast to the approach taken by the previous Conservative government, which focused a great deal of attention on the region, and launched several major defense projects designed to expand the CAF s capabilities and reinforce Canadian sovereignty in the region. The language in the review also marks a notable divergence from the Conservative tradition. No longer is the term sovereignty deployed so aggressively to justify activities and programs. In fact, it appears only 10 times in 113 pages, and only three times is it applied to the Arctic a semantic trend that will likely continue as the Liberals shift away from that terminology toward words like control and surveillance. This is a welcome development, given how broadly sovereignty was used by the previous government, having come to represent everything from legal control to physical security to presence. Despite the changing language, the Liberal approach retains the core elements of the old Conservative Arctic strategy. Five to six offshore patrol ships will be built to expand the armed forces capabilities in the northern waters, which is not a surprise since few expected this 10-year program to be canceled. These vessels will also support other government departments with mandates in the region.
This whole-of-government framework has been the modus operandi of the CAF and civilian partners for years, since first being mentioned in the Canada First Defence Strategy in 2008. The Liberal plan to leverage our new capabilities to help build the capacity of whole-of-government partners sounds much like the armed forces plans in its 2010 Arctic Integrating Concept for the mobilization of [government of Canada] resources across its breadth and to the scale necessary to succeed. The government s threat perception remains largely unchanged, as well. While former prime minister Stephen Harper was vocal about the threat posed by Russia, even implying a Russian threat to the Canadian Arctic, CAF policy as outlined in nearly 10 years of reports and doctrine clearly placed little weight on the possibility of a conventional conflict in the Canadian Arctic. Rather, the concern has long been that increased shipping, resource development, tourism and human activity more generally will lead to security and safety issues requiring armed forces support to civilian agencies. The defense policy review wisely adopts this same line, assuming that future threats will continue to fall on the safety/security side of the spectrum.
This continuity is a good thing. The whole-of-government approach, while operationally tricky, is crucial to bringing necessary resources to bear in an area where Canada has little infrastructure and relatively few assets. It is also wise for the CAF to retain a focus on unconventional security. The defense policy review mentions the threat posed by Russia, stating that a degree of major power competition has returned to the international system. This is caused in part by Russia s ability to project force from its Arctic territory into the North Atlantic. Still, there is no discussion of any conventional threat to the Canadian Arctic and this absence is a welcome recognition that, while Russia s Arctic forces may threaten other NATO regions, they do not pose an immediate danger to the Canadian North. While the defense policy review does not significantly diverge from past Arctic strategy, there are several important points of refocusing. The Liberal government has identified three key areas for targeted investment: surveillance, communications and tactical movement. In doing so it has zeroed-in on some of the most serious hurdles to effective operations.
Canada s Arctic is enormous and surveillance is crucial to addressing threats of all sorts. The government has promised new aircraft, drones and satellite capability. It is also taking bids for a technology demonstration project designed to monitor surface and submarine activity through the Northwest Passage. Poor communications in the North have, likewise, plagued the armed forces missions for decades. Limited satellite coverage and incompatible radio frequencies and encryption types, coupled with natural interference created by the atmospheric conditions in the Far North, have made inter-service and joint operations a challenge. Making sure everyone is using the same technology (and that that technology works) would go a long way toward making the armed forces more effective in everything they do in the region. Finally, buying new snowmobiles and enclosed snow vehicles will be essential to moving the Canadian Armed Forces farther out from the communities and existing supply bases. Plans to acquire a new ground fleet have been in the works for years but deliveries have been limited. Giving the Army the ability to project a critical mass of ground forces across the tundra means delivering vehicles in quantities to Canada s dedicated Arctic units (the Arctic Response Company Groups) rather than dispersing them among the divisions, as in the past).
The government has also announced plans to expand Canada s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), in which aircraft are expected to identify themselves, into the Queen Elizabeth Islands. While this would seem like a natural move, questions remain about Canada s ability to cover this entire area effectively with fighters based in the existing Forward Operating Locations. A CF-18 flying out of Inuvik, for instance, must make a 4,000km (2,485 miles) round trip to intercept a Russian bomber off the northwest coast of Ellesmere Island roughly 700km (435 miles) farther than the aircraft s maximum (unarmed) range. How Canada intends to police this new ADIZ is left unstated. So, too, is how the country intends to renovate the North Warning System. It will need to be replaced in cooperation with the U.S. government and work is ongoing to discern which new technologies will be deployed. Conversations are likely ongoing as well to determine who will cover the enormous costs. Finally, the Department of National Defence will enhance and expand the training and effectiveness of the Canadian Rangers. Promising increased support for the Rangers is a tradition in Canadian defense policy that dates back to the 1970s, and for good reason. The Rangers are Canada s most effective presence in the North and they re cheap. What s more, they certainly align with the Trudeau government s focus on aboriginal empowerment.
Still, some caution should be exercised in expanding Ranger requirements. Because they are such an effective force they have been overused in recent years. Adding more training or increasing their operational tempo for political reasons risks wearing the force down over the longer term.
As a defense policy for the Arctic the review hits the right notes of continuity and renewed focus. The problem areas identified in the document communications, tactical movement and situational awareness are the right things to put new emphasis on. Meanwhile, the continuity from Conservative policy preserves what was best from that time. Some questions remain, such as how to effectively patrol an expanded ADIZ or how to replace the North Warning System. However, all things considered, the defense policy review represents a sober and realistic approach to Canada s defense requirements in the North.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Arctic Deeply.
An expedition that set out to explore the impacts of climate change in the Canadian Arctic has been forced to cancel its plans because of climate change.
The research team aboard the Canadian coast guard icebreaker Amundsen has been forced to scrap the first leg of its expedition after extreme Arctic sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland delayed their access to key research areas in Hudson Bay. The Amundsen, which set out on May 25 from Quebec City, was asked by the coast guard to help with the extreme ice conditions and assist fishing vessels that were trapped in the ice. After being compressed by heavy winds, multiyear sea ice along the coast of Newfoundland was thicker than expected, said Dr. Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet and Amundsen Science. He explained that climate change is preventing the formation of ice arches large blockages of ice that prevent sea ice from being pushed out of Arctic straits as well as making it more difficult for polynya year-round open water areas to form.
The ship then missed the window for its scientific objectives in Hudson Bay, Fortier said. It s meant postponing this year s work on the Hudson Bay System Study (BaySys), a project co-led by a team at the University of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro to examine the influence of freshwater on Hudson Bay marine and coastal systems. Fortier spoke to Arctic Deeply about what made the Arctic sea ice conditions so difficult off the coast of Newfoundland, what canceling the BaySys project this year means and what could have been done differently.
Arctic Deeply: Could you describe the extreme sea ice you encountered near Newfoundland?
Louis Fortier: The ice is very thick; it s compressed by northeast wind against the coast of Newfoundland. This multiyear ice is coming from the Arctic Ocean through the Nares Strait, which is between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, so it flows through Baffin Bay and then the Labrador Sea, and it follows the coast of Labrador and ends up at northeast Newfoundland. This happens sometimes. For example, it happened in 2007 and 2014 again.
Arctic Deeply: What made this ice particularly difficult to navigate, and so unpredictable?
Fortier: This year the difference is that the multiyear ice, which is flowing south, has been pushed and compacted by northeast winds by two storms that pushed the ice and compressed it against northeast Newfoundland. So this is what is unusual. There are always some issues, some ice left over around Newfoundland, at this time of year, but this year it s way worse than usual. We knew that the conditions would be severe around Newfoundland, but not that severe.
Arctic Deeply: What does this tell us about the impact of climate change?
Fortier: What it s telling us from a scientific point of view is that the ice arches that normally form in Nares Strait, and allow the North Water Polynya to form, maybe are not forming as often as they used to, so we should expect that situation to occur more frequently in the future. It s of interest to try to understand what s going to happen to the extremely rich ecosystems that depend on those [arches].
Arctic Deeply: Do you have any specific examples of what could happen to those ecosystems?
Fortier: If the arches do not form, then the sea ice from the Arctic Ocean will tend to accumulate and remain in the northern part of Baffin Bay and some of it will flow south. Northern Baffin Bay is where you have this North Water Polynya system. This is a very rich reproduction and feeding ground for whales, for seals, for mammals and birds. Some experts contend that nearly 90 percent of Arctic birds actually inhabit the north water, so it s an exceptional system. What s going to happen with those ecosystems if the ice [arches] do not form anymore? This is one of the questions that we re going to be debating in Copenhagen in November at an international meeting. These are issues that scientists are concerned with.
We don t know what s going to happen in the coming years, but if things like this year happen more often, then not only will fisheries and navigation be impacted by this flux of ice, but also the ecosystems up north.
Arctic Deeply: Did the Amundsen itself encounter any specific difficulties: Was it stuck in ice, or did any equipment not work as planned?
Fortier: The Amundsen herself had no problem reaching those regions. We went through Belle Isle Strait and did some ice management there, and then we moved north into the Labrador Sea, which was fairly free of ice, and then we moved south again to northeast Newfoundland to enter the pack and try to provide some security services to the fishermen that, despite an announcement by the coast guard on the radio and in the newspaper not to go out at sea, went out at sea nevertheless and encountered that sea ice barrage. But then the situation did not improve; the Amundsen was delayed even more.
At the end of the first week of June, it was too late at that time to go to Hudson Bay. It would have taken too much time to reach there to meet our scientific objectives in Hudson Bay. But there was no impediment for the ship to go to Hudson Bay.
Arctic Deeply: Are there any lessons to take away from this experience, or was there anything that could have been done differently?
Fortier: The coast guard fleet at this time is aging, so it needs more maintenance [and] more refit. If those conditions are expected to occur more often, it s going to be important in the annual deployment of the fleet that we take into consideration this possibility that there will be problems around Newfoundland or problems elsewhere. We need to be more attentive and look more carefully at the ice conditions in the given year and plan for some contingency because you never know when those situations will come about. If there hadn t been those two storms in the north Atlantic, then the situation might have been normal, but you have to plan for the possibility that they will occur at the wrong time.
And that s true for Newfoundland, but it s true for the overall region of the Arctic where the coast guard operates.
Arctic Deeply: Will the BaySys study set for this year be conducted next year?
Fortier: This is what we will be looking into in the coming months. We ll see what are the possibilities to carry that program next year because it s part of an integrated program. There has been a lot of work around the bay, not using the Amundsen but other means, and all that is coordinated. So is it worth it to go one year later to complete the mission? Are we going to be able to insert it, to integrate it, in the program for 2018, which is quite heavy? These are all questions. Where the money will come from and what our options are? It s a bit early to answer exactly what s going to happen.
Arctic Deeply: What else is planned for the rest of this year s expedition?
Fortier: There is the annual mission of ArcticNet, which is very important because we go into the Arctic Archipelago and the different regions and we take measurements. We ve been taking those measurements in some cases since the 90s, so these are time series that are extremely important. The longer they get, the more precious they get, helping us to try and forecast what s going on in the Arctic. Then there is the Inuit Health Survey, which is a re-edition of the 2004 first health survey that was conducted on the Amundsen for Nunavik. These are longitudinal surveys where the epidemiologists are trying to see the same people after 12 or 13 years. So it s important that we conduct that mission this year because this is 13 years after the first one.
This one will be taking place in August and September, so there shouldn t be any problems there ice-wise.