Country Island and Fisherman’s Harbour

Code of Practice – ExxonMobil Canada Personnel Working Near Country Island and Fishermans Harbour, NSA. 

A. Overview

A Code of Practice to protect the uniqueness and integrity of the seabird colonies of Stormont Bay, and in particular the tern colonies of Country Island and Fishermans Harbour, has been developed as an integral part of ExxonMobil Canada’s environmental protection planning. The intent is to provide a guide for the development and implementation of the Sable Offshore Energy Project so that sensitive and valued local environments are protected. Those covered by this Code include, but are not limited to, staff working for: ExxonMobil Canada and all contractors and subcontractors. In all cases, personnel are to follow this Code of Practice.

Personnel are NOT to disembark on Country Island, fly over Country Island, or approach within 2 kilometres of Country Island unless required to do so in a life-threatening emergency, or as an approved part of the ExxonMobil Canada Environmental Monitoring Program. Any such approaches by journalists or others interested in observing project progress are to be discouraged. Similar access restrictions apply to the spit of land projecting into Fishermans Harbour, between Neverfail Cove and Neverfail Point.

All garbage and other wastes are to be managed in such a way that gulls and other scavengers are not attracted to project activities or vessels.

Figure 1. Figure 1: Map of Nearshore Pipeline Route: Arrows Indicate Country Island and Fishermans Harbour Spit

B. Background

The undersea pipeline carrying natural gas from the Thebaud platform near Sable Island to the mainland passes within 3.4 kilometres of Country Island, a 19 ha island in Stormont Bay, approximately 8 km offshore from Drum Head (45º06’N, 61º32’W). Country Island hosts a sizable breeding colony of Common and Arctic Terns, which has provided a nesting opportunity for the threatened Roseate Terns, Sterna dougallii, for many years; the island has been one of the few remaining Canadian breeding sites. Roseates have also been found in the tern breeding colony on the spit which juts into Fishermans Harbour.

The Roseate is the tern species most at risk in northeastern North America; only 87 – 137 pairs breed annually in Canada. In addition, other seabirds nesting on the coasts and islands of the area are also Valued Ecosystem Components. These include Common and Arctic Terns, Sterna hirundo and S. paradisaea; Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, Larus marinus and L. argentatus; Common Eiders, Somateria mollissima; Double-crested Cormorants, Phalocrocorax auritus; Great Blue Herons, Ardea herodi; and Leach’s Storm-Petrels, Oceanodroma leucorhoa.

The intent of this Code of Practice is to provide clarity to all personnel working with ExxonMobil Canada on aspects of the Sable Project concerning interactions between project activities and important local seabird colonies.
The Code of Practice addresses the following:

  1. Project activities;
  2. Vessel routing in the vicinity;
  3. Aircraft flights near and over Country Island and Fishermans Harbour;
  4. Waste management, and,
  5. Media and visitor training.

There are currently no formal restrictions on travel to Country Island, although the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) is considering a Migratory Bird Sanctuary designation for it. CWS is managing the Country Island Tern Restoration Program, in association with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. This program is part of the Roseate Tern Recovery Plan; its goal is to increase the Canadian population to 200 breeding pairs by the end of the first decade of the next century, 125 of them breeding on Sable Island and the remainder on productive colonies on coastal islands, like Country Island. Dalhousie University researchers have also played a key role in conducting research at the colony, and advising on strategies for the Restoration Program.

Personnel associated with the Tern Restoration Program regularly visit the Island, and the Canadian Coast Guard pays routine maintenance visits to its unmanned lighthouse.

There are no formal restrictions on travel to the Fishermans Harbour spit, although local residents are protective of the bird colony there, and discourage casual visitors.

Tern colonies are particularly vulnerable to disturbance. The birds startle easily, flying up from their nests, and leaving their chicks and eggs vulnerable to gulls, crows, and other predators, or to hypothermia. It is of concern to all parties involved that ExxonMobil Canada activities cause no disturbance or damage to local seabirds, especially the tern colonies at Country Island and Fishermans Harbour. In order to achieve this, ExxonMobil Canada has prepared the following guidelines for all personnel associated with its programs in the nearshore area.

C. Details

All personnel are advised to read carefully the following details of ExxonMobil Canada’s Code of Practice.

Project Activities

No project construction activities will take place on Country Island or the Fishermans Harbour spit. Approved ExxonMobil Canada Environmental Monitoring activities will take place in cooperation with CWS personnel.

Vessel routing in the vicinity

Do not land on Country Island or the Fishermans Harbour spit, or approach within a two kilometre radius, unless as an approved activity that is part of the Environmental Monitoring Program, or in case of a life-threatening emergency.

Aircraft flights near and over Country Island and Fishermans Harbour

Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft will follow the pipeline corridor through Stormont Bay. No flights are to come within a one kilometre radius, nor pass over, nor land on Country Island or the Fishermans Harbour spit, except in case of a life-threatening emergency, or as part of approved ExxonMobil Canada Environmental Monitoring. Flyovers of any seabird colonies in the area are not permitted, except as part of approved ExxonMobil Canada Environmental Monitoring.

Waste Management

Do not dump or bury garbage, do not burn it in open-air fires, and do not throw any overboard from any vessel. Garbage must be separated and handled according to municipal regulations.

Media and visitor training

SOE Inc. Public Affairs Department will take responsibility for educating media representatives about this Code of Practice. The Code of Practice will be publicized through the ExxonMobil Canada Information Centre, Inshore Fishermen and Aquaculture Liaison Committee meetings and the ExxonMobil Canada web site.

Advisory: Leach’s Storm-Petrel

One of the seabird species found in the nearshore region is Leach’s Storm-Petrel, which is known to be attracted to lights on ships, barges, dredges and offshore platforms. An advisory notice has been developed for operational personnel associated with the project.