In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas swim in Puget Sound and in view of the Olympic Mountains just west of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas swim in Puget Sound and in view of the Olympic Mountains just west of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Canadian Indigenous groups want sea health study, marine traffic halt

They say the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a new shipping terminal near Vancouver would increase pressure on sea life

Indigenous groups in Canada and the United States are calling for a study of how human activity has degraded the waters off British Columbia’s coast before any new vessel traffic is allowed in the area, where port and pipeline activities are on the rise.

Members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in B.C. and the Tulalip Tribes and Lummi Nation in Washington state say they want a halt to any more marine traffic in the Salish Sea until the impact study is complete.

READ MORE: New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

“We’re Coast Salish nations that have come together from both sides of the border with the United States and Canada to address this urgent issue that’s happening to our Salish Sea,” Raynell Morris of the Lummi Nation said Wednesday.

They say the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a new shipping terminal at Roberts Bank, 35 kilometres south of Vancouver, would increase pressure on sea life.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Trans Mountain project’s approval in August in part due to the National Energy Board’s failure to consider marine shipping impacts.

Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh said the decline of salmon stocks and, in turn, the endangered southern resident killer whales should be a wake up call to politicians on both sides of the border.

“To me it’s like the canary in mines. The animals are going and it’s happening and it’s not going to be too long before it’s affecting all of us,” George said.

READ MORE: Study begins in the Salish Sea as time runs out for whales

The groups said fisheries, sacred sites and traditional economies are all threatened by new and expanding port facilities and they want the study to consider change over time, not just the impacts of a single project.

They suggest establishing a baseline for Salish Sea health at 1985, when harvest levels were still considered healthy. The Lummi Nation also wants to meet with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on the topic, Morris said.

The groups did not rule out demonstrations if U.S. and Canadian authorities refuse to conduct a study, with Morris saying they would protect the land and sea “by any means available and possible and necessary.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Indigenous representatives spoke during a break at an information session held by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review panel on the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.

The project, proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, would see the construction of a new three-berth marine container terminal in the waters off Delta.

Cliff Stewart, vice-president of infrastructure for the port authority, said demand has been increasing on Canada’s west coast for all types of shipping over the past couple of decades. The average growth in demand for container volume alone increases eight per cent each year, he said, which is why the port authority proposed building the new terminal.

Long term forecasting says growth will decline to four or five per cent over the next five to seven years, then down to about three per cent each year over the next several decades.

“But given the volume that now is coming in through the west coast, even a three per cent growth is a significant amount of containers each year,” he said.

Existing infrastructure can be expanded but even then it is projected to reach capacity by the mid-2020s.

Any new project that requires an environmental assessment by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has a consideration of cumulative effects built in, Stewart said.

“The way that environmental assessment methodology works is you look at the impact of a particular project and if there are residual impacts after mitigation, then you have to look at the cumulative effects of that particular effect,” Stewart said.

In the case of Roberts Bank Terminal 2, the only new projected impact after mitigation is an increase in underwater noise, which would have a negative effect on the southern resident killer whales, he said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sofia Low, left, Delilah Maisonneuve, Madi Hickey, Alayna Black, and Maya Wilch, Departure Bay Eco-School students, will turn down the temperature and wear sweaters on Feb. 4, National Sweater Day. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo students will don sweaters this week as part of energy-saving challenge

Departure Bay Eco-School’s green energy team challenges other classes on National Sweater Day

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo’s NRGH

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All seniors in long-term care on the Island will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
UPDATE: Snowfall warning issued for Nanaimo area, up to 5 cm forecast

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
New positive COVID-19 case at Nanaimo care home, where outbreak was declared

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence employee is isolating, says Island Health

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a hatchback and a taxi minivan at the intersection of Fitzwilliam, Pine and Third streets on Friday afternoon. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver hurt as taxi and hatchback crash in Nanaimo

Collision happened Friday at intersection of Fitzwilliam, Pine and Third streets

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Most Read