Robson Bight update – March 28th 2008

When a barge dangerously laden with logging equipment, including a tanker truck of diesel fuel, spilled its load in the heart of the world’s best known orca habitat – the Ecological Reserve at Robson Bight – last August 20th, whale lovers were outraged, environmentalists dismayed, the public alerted, and even the oil industry took note.

Canada’s initial response, via its Coastguard, was to discount the possibility of serious impacts by claiming all the oil and fuel had been released and dispersed.  Eventually, after being pressured by NGOs who raised the funds needed to conduct an underwater investigation, the governments of British Columbia and Canada commissioned an underwater inspection of the spill site.  This was completed in early December.  Months later, despite video evidence ( that the tanker truck is intact and probably still full of toxic diesel fuel we are still waiting for an announcement that the next obvious step – cleanup – will be undertaken before the orcas return in early summer.  Organising and conducting the cleanup will take time, once the decision is made, and time is passing quickly.  Meanwhile, a ticking toxic time bomb is lying on the ocean floor 350m below Robson Bight. 

The absence of official reaction to the evidence from the underwater inspection is puzzling, and disturbing.  The only thing that seems clear is that once again the governments are dragging their feet.  Possibly they are hoping the problem will go away if they ignore it long enough.  That simply isn’t good enough.  The orcas will return soon, probably in June & no later than July.  If the fuel tanker isn’t removed by the time the orcas arrive, it will be considered too risky to do the job until they leave again in the fall or early winter.  This means the cleanup could be pushed back to next spring.  Meanwhile, the diesel might remain inside the tanker, or it might not.  If it is released when orcas are present, the result could be catastrophic.  Leaving it lying at the bottom with orcas swimming above is foolhardy and negligent.  For the orcas’ sake, and to ensure the ecological integrity of Robson Bight, the job must be done now.  Waiting any longer is not an option.

As a matter of urgency, please insist that Canada and British Columbia act now.  Thank you. 

Here are the contact details:

The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent St. Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E6 Canada
phone:  1-613-992-3474
fax:  1-613- 995-7858
Email: [email protected]

The Honourable Barry Penner
Minister of the Environment
P.O. Box 9047, Stn. Prov. Gov’t.
Victoria, B.C.
V8W 9E2 Canada
phone:  1-250-387-1187
fax:  1-250-387-1356
Email: [email protected]

photographs credit: Nuytco

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