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Trans Mountain supertanker traffic would mean ‘signifcant adverse effects’ on killer whale population

Photo: A pod of killer whales visit the Burrard Inlet.

The proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and TransCanada Energy East pipelines would threaten endangered whales on both the East and West coasts.

Trans Mountain

CBC reports, “If you don’t live on the West Coast, perhaps it’s hard to appreciate just how poorly approving an oil pipeline at the expense of an endangered population of killer whales might play out. In approving Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion this week, the National Energy Board said it weighed the benefits of the project against its burdens. Among the ‘adverse effects’ deemed to be most ‘significant’ were those likely to impact a population of about 80 southern resident killer whales found off the coast of Vancouver Island.”

The article highlights, “The main threat posed by the Trans Mountain expansion would come from increased volume of shipping traffic and underwater noise. The NEB says the project would increase capacity from five ships a month through Burrard Inlet to a maximum of 34 [per month]. According to the report, Trans Mountain acknowledged the additional noise the project would create, but noted that a host of past activities have contributed to the peril currently facing the southern residents. ‘Trans Mountain argued that the shipping lanes will continue to host marine vessel traffic with or without the project, and that the impacts to the southern resident killer whales will continue to exist with or without the project’, read the report.”

And the article notes, “Southern resident killer whales are designated under the Species At Risk Act (SARA), which means federal prohibitions exist against anything that would harm them or habitat considered critical to their survival. Misty MacDufee, a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, says she won’t be surprised to see a legal challenge pitting the powers of SARA against those of the regulatory tribunal. ‘They’ve essentially said that it’s okay to push this species towards extinction’, says MacDuffee. ‘I don’t know that the NEB are empowered to make a decision about whether a unique population that’s protected under the laws that we have federally — that it’s OK for them to make [that] decision.'”

The Council of Canadians stands with our many allies who have said that the NEB recommendation doesn’t alter our resolution that the Trans Mountain pipeline will never be built.

Energy East

Nearly all of the 1.1 million barrels a day of crude oil the pipeline would carry would be exported unrefined. It has been estimated that those exports would increase the number of oil supertankers in the Bay of Fundy from 115 to more than 280 a year.

Right whales in the Bay of Fundy are already stressed from the current levels of supertanker traffic and underwater noise. Increased traffic resulting from the Energy East pipeline would only would worsen this situation. Right whales are also protected under the same species at risk (SARA) designation as killer whales.

Fredericton-based Council of Canadians campaigner Mark D’Arcy has written, “The North Atlantic Right Whale is a symbol of the biodiversity and fragility of the Bay of Fundy. It is a magnificent marine mammal and it is also the most endangered whale in the world. August and September are the months when these and other whales come into the Bay of Fundy in the largest numbers, attracted to the rich biodiversity of the Bay of Fundy that rivals the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest. TransCanada is the wrong company to have near the right whale. Leave the right whale and the Bay of Fundy alone.”

D’Arcy has also noted, “The rich zooplankton, krill and fish in the Bay of Fundy which attracts a dozen whale species, including each summer, two-thirds of the 350-400 remaining population of North Atlantic Right Whales, one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.”

The National Energy Board will make its recommendation on the Energy East pipeline to the federal Cabinet in March 2018. It is very possible that they could make a similar ruling on Energy East as they did with Trans Mountain. In other words, they may try to argue that while Energy East-related exports could have “adverse effects” on right whales, a “host of past activities” that imperil the whale would also continue to exist anyway and as such the pipeline and associated supertanker exports should be approved. This type of flawed logic is unacceptable.

Toronto-born Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson has stated, “The fate of the whale is our fate, for when the whale is gone, the oceans will die and when the oceans die, we die!”