http://www.canada.com/montreal/montrealgazette/story.asp?id=4365C45E-6552-45 D4-AC00-0BF047A015D2 Public hearings called on underwater blasting in gulf Expert panel warns Quebec government natural-gas testing could harm whales The Gazette, Tuesday, March 09, 2004 A Quebec government-appointed committee of experts has found underwater blasting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could harm some marine mammals and recommended measures to minimize the environmental impact of natural gas exploration in the seaway be put in place. The committee's 200-page report, made public Friday, was commissioned by the Quebec ministries of environment, natural resources and parks and wildlife in reaction to a public outcry over plans to begin blasting southeast of Anticosti Island last fall as part of Hydro-Québec's eight-year, $300-million oil and gas exploration project in the St. Lawrence, announced in November 2002. Quebec Environment Minister Thomas Mulcair asked the environmental-assessment agency, BAPE, to begin holding public hearings on blasting this month and report by Aug. 31 The high-intensity sound waves generated by the compressed-air cannons used in underwater seismic blasting could disrupt the behaviour and habitats of some marine species and cause physiological damage, especially to hearing, the experts found. This, in turn, could have s effects on the tourism and fishing industries. Environmentalists criticized the report for being too narrow in scope and not looking at the other aspects of Hydro's exploration plan, which also include drilling, and the cumulative effect it will have on the region. The report is only the first stage in the government's study, said Mulcair's deputy chief of staff, Paul-Yanik Laquerre.