Time Sensitive Opportunity for Input to Ottawa Freighter Anchorages: A Threat to the Marine Ecosystem.

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The NE shore of Gabriola is still under threat of freighter anchorages. The presence of these very large freighters would put at risk the marine ecosystem that so many fish, whales, sea birds and other marine species rely on for their survival.

There are a couple of Federal government websites currently asking for public input. It is important to let them know how we feel. That we want increased protections in the Fisheries Act so that harmful proposals such as the anchorages do not proceed.

Getting involved is a win-win! Good for protecting the marine life off our shores, and good for strengthening our position against the anchorages! The two websites where you can provide input are described below.

1) Fisheries Act: http://www.letstalkfishhabitat.ca

  • Extended deadline for providing feedback is September 11, 2017.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada are proposing to revise the current Fisheries Act, to improve the laws that protect fish and fish habitat. There are 2 ways to present your thoughts about how the Fisheries Act could be improved:
  1. Go to http://www.letstalkfishhabitat.ca/ and submit a comment on the ‘Ideas Forum’. The submissions do not need to be long. If time is limited then suggest that you not bother with the 4 ‘worksheet’ sections on website as they are slanted towards monitoring and mitigation and not towards strengthening the sections of the Act that would require environmental assessments for a marine project (like the proposed anchorages).
  2. Please also consider writing directly to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and Coast Guard with your concerns. Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca. By mail: 200 Kent St., Station 15N100, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0E6.

Why get involved? Under the current Fisheries Act, the proposed anchorages off Gabriola were not subject to any environmental assessment from Fisheries and Oceans because of changes to the Act in 2012 that drastically weakened the level of protection for marine species.

What to consider: The West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) Society list 10 recommendations for improving the Fisheries Act (https://www.wcel.org/publication/top-10-recommendations-renewed-fisheries-act)

Suggestions from WCEL and others:

  1. Support Indigenous Reconciliation
  2. Restore lost protections and introduce modern safeguards
  3. Restore the Act’s focus on protection of all fish and all fish habitat, not just fish with commercial value.
  4. Restore the Prohibition against Harmful Alteration, Disruption, Destruction (HADD) of fish habitat. This protection existed prior to 2012.
  5. Modernize the HADD authorization process to require that cumulative effects of impact on fish and fish habitat be considered in any development application.
  6. Support making fisheries authorizations triggers for environmental assessments by re-establishing section(s) 32, 35, 36 for major projects (such as the anchorages!).

2) Whales at Risk: https://www.letstalkwhales.ca

Open for public input until September 19, 2017.

What to consider: Negative impact of the proposed Gabriola anchorages on whale health:

  • Noise from ships hamper the whale’s ability to hunt effectively and to communicate. Ship noise affects migration, feeding patterns, reproductive health.
  • Ship strikes: parking freighters off Gabriola will increase the risk of ship strikes as ships traveling to Port of Vancouver from the proposed anchorage sites off Gabriola will cross directly through known whale feeding and transit corridor.
  • Pollution/ Harm to food source: Research from the Centre for Whale Research in Washington State warns that the Southern Resident Killer Whales are starving and on the brink of extinction. The proposed anchorage area off Gabriola is an area where these endangered Killer Whales travel and feed. We have reason to believe that the beaches on Gabriola’s NE shore (Sandwell to Whalebone) may be important spawning beaches for the tiny fish that are critical to these whales’ survival. Pollution from chronic oiling from the ships at anchor is a threat to the health of spawning beaches. The Islands Trust Fund stresses: “We need healthy local beaches if we are to have healthy killer whales.
  • “Critical Habitats” designated for whales are largely political boundaries. While based on scientific information they do not reflect the ideal safe zones for whale health. Whales do not recognize ‘borders’, they travel the length of the Salish sea and beyond. Larger areas need to be protected from tanker traffic.

Let your concerns be known to Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO):

  1. Through https://www.letstalkwhales.ca/. Use the 4 worksheets, and the “Ideas Forum”. Submissions do not need to be long, all comments appreciated.
  2. Write directly to DFO. Submit a letter to the following address: dfo.letstalkwhales-parlonsbaleines.mpo@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Remember getting involved is a win-win! Good for protecting the marine life off our shores, and good for strengthening our position- against the anchorages!

It is your chance to have your say. Thank you!

If you would like more background information or if you have any questions or comments, please contact Ruby or Ross Chapman: rubychapman@gmail.com.

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