‘Coast guard under estimated risk of fuel spill’ says Raincoast Captain

“Everyone who loves this coast was just holding their breath"

Raincoast is fortunate to have Captain Brian Falconer at the helm of our research vessel, Achiever.  Louise Dixon captures the value of having eyes and ears on the water.

Coast guard under estimated risk of fuel spill

Louise Dickson / Times Colonist / October 21, 2014

A veteran West Coast mariner says the Canadian Coast Guard significantly underestimated the ecological consequences of a possible fuel spill from a container ship off the coast of Haida Gwaii last week.

“Everyone who loves this coast was just holding their breath,” said Brian Falconer, reached by cellphone north of Bella Bella, where he has spent two stormy weeks on the Achiever, the research vessel of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Falconer, who was captain of the 92-foot Maple Leaf schooner for 20 years, said the environmental threat posed by the Simushir was much worse than was stated Friday by coast guard assistant commissioner Roger Girouard.

The Simushir drifted without power in rough seas for close to 20 hours. If it had broken up, the coast guard would have had to arrange the cleanup of 400 tonnes of bunker oil and 50 tonnes of diesel fuel.

“The seas would break up the oil, so we’d have an ally there. It’s cool weather, so we don’t have a lot of migratory species right at the moment,” Girouard said Friday.

Falconer agreed that the cold, rough seas would break up the oil into smaller pieces more quickly, but that would not mean the oil would disappear, he said. “It takes a long time for that to happen. In the meantime, the oil would have fouled some of the richest intertidal life in the world.”

The seas are also thick with birds, he said. “There are hundreds of thousands of birds. Western grebes are migrating right now. Rhinoceros auklets chicks have just fledged and they’re all around.”

The Achiever research vessel has been in Hecate Strait for the past two weeks because of the large concentrations of marine mammals, including humpbacks, fin whales and sperm whales ….

– See the Times Colonist’s website for the full story: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/coast-guard-underestimated-risk-of-fuel-spill-mariner-says-1.1452876#sthash.86XIVoZL.dpuf

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