Oil and gas drilling is banned on Georges Bank for another three years, but the debate is far from over.

Premier Darrell Dexter announced Thursday his government is extending the moratorium in the waters south of Nova Scotia from 2012 to 2015.

The decision takes place against the backdrop of a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with both fishermen and opposition parties urging the government to block development of the wildlife-rich area.

But the extension is much shorter than last time, when the government in 1999 decided to extend the ban until 2012. Dexter said that’s because they’re still waiting on more scientific information to come back.

Two reports are underway but Dexter said more study is needed before a final decision is made.

“Some are completed, some are not. What I’m saying is what we have seen so far points out the need for additional scientific inquiry,” said Dexter.

Another factor is that part of the area falls under American jurisdiction. The current American moratorium runs until 2017. Dexter said Nova Scotia won’t necessarily pursue drilling if the Americans do.

He also said Thursday’s decision was not due to the Gulf of Mexico BP spill.

“The event there had little effect on this decision at all. It’s something that raised awareness but we were on a track to make this decision,” he said.

Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre was happy to see the moratorium extended but said ideally it should be permanent.

“At some point we have to get out of this, end the cycle of studies and public consultations every five years or every 10 years,” said Butler.

“In the end yes, the science is important, yes, changes in the industry and the technology are important, but the value of Georges Bank doesn’t change, both its ecosystem and to the fishery.”

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