Tracking Raincoast into 2011

Notes from the Field - A conservation update from the Great Bear Rainforest

December 2010

By Chris Darimont, Director of Science for Raincoast

This Holiday Season, I would like to share the introduction published in Tracking Raincoast into 2011. From my family to yours, I wish you all the best of 2011 and ask you to join me in honoring our precious coast.

The future of coastal British Columbia means much more to me now. Being a new parent, I am invested in tomorrow like never before.

This spring, baby Maëlle adventured into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. There she entered ancient river valleys blessed with salmon – an ocean food that has fed grizzly bears, wolves, eagles and a whole web of life for millennia. I shared with her an ocean bustling with fish, whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and birds.

This precious coast will always be a part of who Maëlle is. I envision her exploring tide pools like I did as a child; tasting salmon for the first time; and learning to sail from her grandfather.

But obscuring these idyllic visions are some disquieting thoughts. What if Maëlle inherits a coast like Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez spewed oil across a landscape that is still impacted by the disaster’s aftermath? What if she one day suffers what children of the Gulf Coast will endure over the next several decades in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe?

Why do I worry?

Enbridge Inc. filed their application for the Northern Gateway Project with the National Energy Board in June.

Their troubling scheme includes a twinned pipeline over the rugged Rocky and Coast Mountains between Alberta’s tar sands and the port of Kitimat. Condensate would be shipped to the north coast and piped to Alberta to dilute the thick tar sand’s bitumen. In return, “the world’s dirtiest oil” would be pumped back to the coast and shipped via supertankers to Asian and American markets.

The plan is nothing short of arrogant in its ambition to taunt one of the world’s most rugged landscapes and perilous coastlines. We hear dubious promises of “world-class” safety practices. Will pipeline maintenance match existing Enbridge standards that have polluted Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, wildlife, and people? Are their ocean transport protocols similar to those delivered by BC Ferries, which lost the Queen of the North along the proposed tanker route a few years ago? Will their clean-up responses match BP’s, which failed the Gulf Coast? If anything has been learned from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, it is that even the best available technology can be reduced to irrelevance by human error, malfunction, bad luck, weather, and their wicked convergence.

As you will read in this year’s Tracking Raincoast, our major focus for now and the foreseeable future is addressing and curtailing the risks posed by Northern Gateway. Raincoast is engaging on this issue from every angle with research, education, and advocacy. Everything we have worked for and continue to work for is at stake.

We seek your support for our urgent and important efforts to safeguard BC’s treasured coast.

Dr. Chris Darimont
Science Director, Raincoast Conservation Foundation


In the coming week you will receive a copy of our annual publication Tracking Raincoast into 2011 in the mail. We would like to share a preview of this beautiful publication today. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive a copy, please email christine [at] raincoast [dot] org.


A sincere thank you from everyone at Raincoast to all our donors for your continued support. In 2011, Raincoast will continue to implement creative strategies and pursue innovative solutions to conservation challenges.

We invite you to join in our efforts on behalf of wild places and wild species throughout the BC coast.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation PO Box 2429 Sidney, BC, Canada V8L 3Y3 Tel: (250) 655-1229
Web: raincoast.org

Photo Credits:

Larry Travis, Eric Sambol, Klaus Pommerenkem, Doug Brown, Tim Irvin

Tracking cover shot: Guillaume Mazille


You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.