Raincoast’s latest report demonstrates how the region’s biological diversity –its plants and animals- is captured in our values, has shaped our cultural identity and is linked to economic benefits in the billions of dollars. We encourage decision makers and residents to fully consider what is at stake from a host of proposed coastal energy and shipping projects.
Yet despite this ecological value, many of the habitats that provide these benefits are under significant stress. This situation will only be exacerbated by the combined effect that proposed energy and shipping projects have, including oil spills. No one is examining these proposals from the perspective of their cumulative impacts, and how they affect our economies, cultures, and values of the Salish Sea.
As governments and citizens across the Salish Sea line-up to recommend the National Energy Board reject Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain proposal, we urgently need to start a broader conversation about the true value of this unique ecosystem.
Unlike federal risk and environmental assessments, this report identifies the need for cumulative effect assessments of proposed coastal energy and shipping projects; it also identifies the failings of existing assessments concerning increased vessel traffic and oil spill risk. The report concludes that purported economic benefits of fossil fuel export projects, such as Trans Mountain, are insignificant when weighed against a more holistic examination of the Salish Sea’s value.
The report details the importance of Salish Sea tourism to the BC and Washington State economies as a provider of thousands of jobs and a billion dollars in visitor spending. Nature based tourism is highlighted as just one growing sector that already employs thousands through the region and is directly reliant on the region’s ecological health.
The report profiles different recreational pursuits and their distribution throughout the Salish Sea as one proxy for values attached to the natural environment. Widely distributed recreational pursuits with high levels of participation include half a million licensed saltwater anglers, 1.8 million birders, 200,000 kayakers, and thousands of surfers.
The study demonstrates an ecosystem of global significance with a range of natural benefits -or ecosystem services- that fundamentally support our environment, economy and society. At a time in which the Salish Sea’s non-human residents face a myriad of pressures, we are encouraging everyone to consider how they, personally, value the Salish Sea, and to share this with the decision makers empowered to protect it.