When it comes to protecting the marine environment, we make every effort to ensure that every operator working in the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area has taken all the necessary steps to demonstrate how they will carefully and responsibly perform offshore activities to avoid or minimize impacts to the environment.

Environmental Assessment

Environmental Assessments (EAs) are governed by both the Federal/Provincial Accord Acts and the Impact Assessment Act.  The nature of the proposed offshore program will dictate which regulatory stream proponents are to follow for EA preparation. 

Part III of the Accord Acts promotes environmental protection in the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area, and includes the requirement for an EA for offshore petroleum activity authorizations for exploration and development programs.

The Impact Assessment Act applies specifically to “designated projects” as defined by that Act, and the Physical Activities Regulations pursuant to that Act.  Under this Act, the following programs require a federal impact assessment (IA) and are primarily overseen by the Impact Assessment Agency:

  • the drilling, testing and abandonment of offshore exploratory wells in the first exploration drilling program in an exploration licence;
  • petroleum development programs
  • some decommissioning programs

For those activities requiring an IA under the Impact Assessment Act, the CNSOPB typically accepts the IA as fulfilling its Accord Acts authorization requirement for EA.  All other EAs are primarily overseen by the CNSOPB. This includes EAs for the following types of programs:

  • geophysical and geotechnical programs, including seismic surveying
  • exploration drilling programs that take place subsequent to the first drilling program within an exploration licence
  • some decommissioning programs

These processes predict effects of proposed physical activities before they begin. The process identifies potential effects, proposes measures to mitigate adverse effects, and predicts significant adverse effects after mitigation measures and follow up programs. Follow-up programs are common, and verify the accuracy of predictions and the effectiveness of mitigation measures specified in the EA/IA.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) have been prepared by the CNSOPB and consist of an overview of the environmental information in a study area surrounding the parcel areas. It is recommended that the information within SEAs be used by operators to assist in the preparation of project specific environmental assessments. "The Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Western Scotian Shelf and Slope" is particularly relevant to the Call for Bids NS21-1 parcels and is available here.

Environmental Considerations

*The map below shows the special areas in the vicinity of the Call for Bids NS21-1 parcels.

Special Areas

The eastern section of the Fundian Channel-Browns Bank Area of Interest (AOI) is adjacent to the parcels. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) intends to designate this area as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). This AOI includes two geographically separate components (indicated on the map shown).  This AOI includes important oceanographic processes, diverse benthic habitats, several depleted species (e.g. groundfish), and deep-sea coral and sponge habitats.

The Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area is within the AOI. This conservation area is a fisheries closure area that includes cold water corals identified as significant under DFO’s Policy for Managing the Impact of Fishing on Sensitive Benthic Areas.

Call for Bids NS21-1 parcels are outside of but within the vicinity of the Roseway Basin, which is designated as critical habitat for the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, and is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act

The Corsair and Georges Canyons Conservation Area (Restricted Bottom Fisheries Zone) is within the vicinity of the parcels. This area protects cold water coral. These structure-forming species provide habitat for many other species.

Call for Bids NS21-1 parcels are outside of but in the vicinity of the Georges Bank Prohibition Area, which is an area closed to offshore petroleum activity.

Species at Risk

Portions of both parcels are known to have year-round or migratory presence of a number of species with protections under the Species at Risk Act, which is enforced by DFO and Environment and Climate Change Canada. These include, but are not limited to: Blue Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale, Fin Whale, Leatherback Sea Turtle and the White Shark.

Project specific EAs/IAs will be required to address the potential for interaction with species at risk. Bidders are strongly encouraged to gain an understanding of the Species at Risk Act. The Act and associated species’ registry are available by clicking here.


Indigenous and commercial fisheries occur in the area. Most fishing is concentrated on the shallower areas of the shelf break. Species fished include scallop, lobster, crab, cod, halibut, flatfish, haddock and hake. Fishing for large tuna, swordfish and shark also occurs in deeper waters on the Scotian Slope and Rise.

Other ocean users in and around the parcel areas include commercial shipping, scientific research and military activity.

Statement of Canadian Practice With Respect To the Mitigation Of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment

The Statement of Canadian Practice with Respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment (the Statement) contains mitigation measures for the potential effects of seismic activity on the marine environment, and is based on the best available science that was available when the Statement was developed. It is currently under review, but the existing Statement remains applicable. Adherence to the mitigation within the Statement is required for seismic programs, at a minimum, and enhanced mitigation beyond that stated in the Statement may be required. Potential future operators of seismic operations are to provide rationale for any modifications or variations to mitigation measures that are set out in the Statement, for consideration by the CNSOPB. The Statement and a background paper are available here.