By Chris Genovali
Lessons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska have shown that even after two decades, some species and fisheries still have not recovered.
This includes killer whale populations, some seabird populations, shellfish harvesting and the commercial herring fishery. If the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is constructed from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, we could see supertankers like the Exxon Valdez in BC waters transporting oil to Asian and American off shore markets.
“Our findings show that a spill the size of the Exxon Valdez, which is not even in the top 50 largest oil spills, would have a profound impact on marine mammal and marine bird populations on the BC coast,” said Dr. Paul Paquet, Raincoast senior scientist and an author of the report.
“BC has a dark history of marine mammal exploitation. Since we stopped hunting whales, sea lions, and sea otters to the verge of extinction, we are witnessing their recovery in our coastal waters,” said Misty MacDuffee, Raincoast biologist and a report author. “Now there is talk of putting tanker routes in their feeding grounds and risk their habitats to the threat of a catastrophic spill. More sea otters died in the Exxon Valdez oil spill than exist on the entire central and north coast of BC.”
“Terrestrial wildlife also face great danger from an oiled coast. Coastal grizzly bears and wolves, which rely on marine foods, would suffer in an Exxon-like catastrophe,” said Dr. Chris Darimont, Raincoast large carnivore scientist and an author of the report.
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