Value of the Salish Sea revealed in new report

Holistic examination needed of coastal energy and shipping projects.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation released a new report today encouraging federal, provincial/ state, local, and indigenous governments, and residents, of the Salish Sea to fully consider what is at stake from a host of proposed coastal energy and shipping projects. The report demonstrates how the value of the region’s biological diversity – its plants and animals – reflect our values, have shaped our cultural identity, and are linked to economic benefits in the billions of dollars.

Yet 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 – and that’s much bigger than 50 jobs from Kinder Morgan,” said Raincoast’s Misty MacDuffee, lead author on the report.

Unlike federal risk and environmental assessments, this report considers the cumulative effects of proposed coastal energy and shipping projects, and identifies numerous 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.

“This 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” said Raincoast executive director Chris Genovali.

Download the full report and executive summary (PDF).

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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.