Ottawa has dropped plans to dump crude into northern waters next to a proposed ocean park to test new ways of cleaning up oil spills in the Arctic.
The decision came within hours of protests from Inuit groups.
“This test will not proceed this year,” said an email from Nelson Kalil, a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Last Thursday, the department applied to a northern regulatory board for permission to dump up to 1,200 litres of oil into Lancaster Sound in the Northwest Passage this summer. The area is adjacent to a proposed national marine conservation area.
The application to the Nunavut Impact Review Board said that increased accessibility in the Arctic is also increasing the risk of oil spills. It said current cleanup techniques are of limited use in ice-choked water and new methods have to be tested.
But the application had come without any consultation with area Inuit.
John Amagoalik of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association said his group was on the phone with Ottawa on Friday to complain about the lack of information. The next day, Fisheries and Oceans was saying the tests were off.
“We certainly made our feelings known to the government on this and maybe it had an effect,” Amagoalik said Monday.
As the world watches the continuing oil-spill debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. and Canada debates the future of its own offshore drilling regulations, marine scientists continue to warn that there is still no effective method to clean up leaks in the Arctic. This summer’s tests would have allowed researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography to try using fine clay particles to break up oil into tiny droplets that would disperse and break down more quickly.