The cliff on the right is Percé Rock (Roche Percé), a series of shear shoreline rocks on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence

image credit: Brian Skerry 

A harp seal pup, about 14 days old, makes its first swim in the icy waters of Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. Thinning ice due to climate change over the last decade has caused problems for these pups that need solid ice as a platform to nurse from their moms. On years when the sea ice is thin or non existent, the pup mortality rate can be especially high.
Offshore oil drilling licence proposal for Gulf of St. Lawrence provokes anger
Environmental and First Nations groups have opposed the Halifax-based company's plans

A regulator’s proposal to give more time to an energy company that wants to drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is provoking anger from opponents who say it’s high time the federal government intervene to protect the area.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said Friday it’s proposing to grant Corridor Resources a new four-year exploration licence in an area known as Old Harry. Otherwise, the board said there wouldn’t be enough time to complete consultations and an environmental assessment before its current licence expires Jan. 14, 2017.

“We’re reeling, absolutely reeling,” said Mary Gorman, co-founder of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, which has been pushing against the Halifax-based company’s drilling plans for the nine years it has had a licence for exploratory drilling in Old Harry.

“It’s like Groundhog Day. You’re stuck in some kind of time warp that keeps repeating itself.”

The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and other environmental and First Nation groups have been calling for a moratorium to prevent offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over concerns of the potential effects a spill would have on the area’s sensitive ecology.

“I would say to the honourable prime minister, ‘Where’s the beef?”’ Gorman said.

“What are you actually doing to protect the East Coast … You got every seat out of us. Where are you for us now?”

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Photo by @daviddoubilet A lions mane jellyfish hunts for a meal in the shallow coves of Bonne Bay fjord in Gros Morne National Park, #Newfoundland. Lions mane jellies are the largest species of jellyfish, some larger individuals have tentacles reaching 100 feet. They live in cold water and use stinging tentacles to capture fish and other prey. Each time we finished a dive in the fjord I felt like we were surfacing into a Canadian painting. #GrosMorne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From @natgeo story gulf if St. Lawrence, The Generous Gulf. With @natgeocreative @thephotosociety #ocean #canada #beauty #jellyfish #adventure #explore for #moreocean follow @jenniferhayesig and @daviddoubilet by natgeo

A baby seal cautiously dips its head in freezing cold water as it goes swimming for the first time. The two-week-old harp seal explores the environment in the -2 degree Celsius waters after jumping in from the ice. Photographer Keith Monroe, travelled to the a floating ice pack in the Gulf of St Lawrence just off the Magdalen Islands, Canada.
Picture: Keith Monroe/Solent News

A baby seal rolls in the snow in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada. The harp seals, aged between two and ten-days-old, roll around in the snow and explore their new surroundings.

Picture: Ellen Cuylaerts/HotSpot Media

via National Geographic:

Photographer David Doubilet was on assignment for National Geographic photographing wildlife in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence when he photographed this colorful and exotic-looking lion’s mane jellyfish in Bonne Bay. The beauty of this creature drifting in the crystal-clear waters underscores what there is to lose as years of overfishing, warming waters, and possible offshore drilling cause concern for the health of the gulf’s ecosystem.

A lion’s mane jellyfish drifts in Bonne Bay in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
-Photograph by David Doubilet

I recently got quite close to a Medusa, I find them very fascinating if you don’t get their sting..

Atlantic Deep-sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)

Sometimes known as the “giant scallop”, P. magellanicus is a species of scallop (Pectinidae) which is native to the western Atlantic, where it occurs from the Gulf of St. Lawrence south to Cape Hatteras. Like most bivalves, Placopecten magellanicus is a suspension feeder, filtering the water around it for nutrients. However, like other scallops P. magellanicus possesses the ability to freely swim for short distances by moving water through its valves quickly. 


Animalia-Mollusca-Bivalvia-Pteriomorphia-Ostreoida-Pectinina-Pectinoidea-Pectinidae-Placopecten-P. magellanicus

Image: Dann Blackwood

St. Lawrence Coalition Condemns Québec's Push for Oil and Gas Development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Québec minister of Energy and Natural Resources, M. Pierre Arcand, as well as minister of Sustainable Development and Environment, M. David Heurtel, have unveiled today Québec’s comprehensive Action Plan on oil and gas. Among other things, this plan aims to continue procedures to open Québec’s part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oil exploration. The

St. Lawrence Coalition condemns this favorable bias and this supposed urgency that neglects the fragility of the Gulf as well as the fears of Gulf-wide coastal communities directly concerned.

On one hand, the moratorium on Québec’s part of the Gulf will be maintained for a while but no indication is given as to the modalities of its eventual lifting. Will it be lifted as soon as Fall 2014 when Québec tables its mirror-Act on offshore oil and gas? Will a real public consultation (BAPE) on this major issue be held before lifting the Québec moratorium? Will the concerns of coastal communities be heard?

The Québec government wants to initiate legislative procedures by tabling as soon as Fall 2014 its mirror-Act on offshore oil and gas. It must be understood that this Act has to be modeled on a similar Act
tabled simultaneously by the federal government in Ottawa. We hope that Quebec will incorporate in that Act the promised « highest standards » without compromising with the constantly undermined
federal standards :
• Absolute liability of oil companies should be unlimited, as is the case in Norway or Denmark, and not capped at $1 billion with a ministerial discretion to lower it as proposed by the Harper government;
• All exploratory drilling as well as all seismic surveys should be submitted to environmental assessments, and not only the first drilling as is now required by the Harper government;
• The current veto of oil companies on environmental and security information, required by the Harper government, should be rejected by Québec in favor of total transparency;
• Québec should request independent observers on offshore platforms contrary to federal norm;
• The Québec-Newfoundland border issue should be settled before any offshore drilling.

The Québec Action Plans affirms that Newfoundland is on the verge of drilling at Old Harry and that Québec could have all the risks without any of the benefits. It is important to mention that the Old Harry drilling project is still under environmental assessment and Newfoundland is far from having authorized the project.

In addition, the Québec Action Plan only sees the Gulf of St. Lawrence from a Québec perspective. Yet, five provinces share the Gulf of St. Lawrence and any oil exploration, by Québec or any other province, would put its neighbours at risk without them gaining any economic benefit. This interdependency requires openness and dialogue between all Gulf provinces. Québec occupies over 56% of the Gulf surface and the St. Lawrence Coalition strongly encourages the Québec government to assume leadership with its neighbours concerning the management of this unique ecosystem : 

• The five Gulf provinces should agree on a Gulf-wide moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development;
• The five provinces should put in place, with the federal governement, and independent public review to address the offshore oil issue in the totality of the Gulf.

« The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a unique ecosystem of great fragility, shared by five coastal provinces. As a first step, any lifting of the Québec moratorium should be submitted to a public consultation (BAPE). In addition, Québec should assume leadership in the Gulf and work with its neighbour coastal provinces to implement a Gulf-wide moratorium on oil and gas activities as well as holding a Gulf-wide independent public review » concludes Sylvain Archambault, spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition.

Sea Ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Every year, Arctic sea ice shrinks and grows, reaching its minimum in September and its maximum in February or March. As sea ice nears its maximum, it often begins to form in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. That’s likely what was happening when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image on February 11, 2013.

The Earth System Research Lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that surface air temperatures in the region were well below freezing from February 5–12, 2013, although not unusually low for this time of year. Slightly below-normal temperatures prevailed from Nova Scotia northward past Île d’Anticosti, and eastward to the northern tip of Newfoundland—the same areas where sea ice appears in this image.

Young sea ice is typically thin enough to be easily moved by winds and currents, and such ice often takes on serpentine shapes. Delicate swirls of ice are especially noticeable in this image south of Île d’Anticosti. Closer to Prince Edward Island, the ice appears thicker, likely forming in the area thanks to frigid northerly winds. Sea ice is also visible off Newfoundland, but it may have formed to the north and drifted southward along the Labrador coast.

Flabellina varrucosa

…a species of aeolid nudibranch in the Flabellinidae that is found on either side of the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. It ranges from the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Gulf of Maine, and most of the North Atlantic Ocean. Individuals from British Columbia and Alaska are sometimes identified as this species but are very likely a sibling species. F. varrucosa is a predator feeding on a range of sessile invertebrates (preferring Tubularia indivisa). But they are also known to feed on detritus and plankton.


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Image: Bernard Picton