National Energy Board fails killer whales

NEB’s approval of Kinder Morgan oil tankers will push southern resident killer whales one step closer to extinction.

SIDNEY, BC – The proposed expansion of pipelines and associated oil tanker traffic in the Salish Sea will seriously jeopardize survival of BC’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales, increasing the likelihood that their numbers will decline and the probability that they will ultimately become extinct in Canada and the United States, asserted the Raincoast Conservation Foundation in response to the NEB’s announcement.

“Our evidence and the evidence submitted by pipeline proponent Kinder Morgan, shows that deafening noise from increased tanker traffic in the Salish Sea will place southern resident killer whales at a significantly high risk of a population decline that cannot be mitigated. Although the enduring threat of loud tankers is a serious problem that cannot be alleviated, the additional possibility of a catastrophic oil spill places killer whales in untenable risk,” said Raincoast’s Senior Scientist Dr. Paul Paquet.

Scientists who study killer whales, acoustics, and population biology, working on behalf of Raincoast, examined the effects of increased noise from Kinder Morgan’s oil tankers on the ability of endangered Southern Resident killer whales to sustain and rebuild their current population.

“We found that increased noise will decrease the ability of killer whales to communicate, acquire food, and survive. This will prevent the population from growing and increase its likelihood of extinction,” said Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program Director, Misty MacDuffee.

“Our analyses and findings were submitted as evidence to the NEB and were unchallenged by Kinder Morgan and the Canadian Federal Government.”

Raincoast also provided evidence to the NEB on the substantial threats that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion presents to Fraser River salmon. Both chronic oil spills and catastrophic oil spills are direct, high-risk threats to these fish. In addition, the increased greenhouse gas emissions that will result from burning this oil threatens ocean food webs, again affecting salmon and killer whales; species of substantial cultural and economic importance to British Columbians and the entire Pacific Northwest.

Finally, Raincoast believes that the NEB’s decision to approve this pipeline was carried out with the understanding that it will cause the decline of endangered southern resident killer whales; likely a legal violation of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). SARA states that activities that protect endangered species must be mitigated. “There is currently no mitigation for the harmful noise that oil tankers make in the Salish Sea,” adds Dr. Paquet.

Press contact information

Dr. Paul Paquet, Raincoast Senior Scientist

Misty MacDuffee, Biologist, Wild Salmon Program, misty [at] raincoast [dot] org

Links to Raincoast’s NEB submissions

Read our Final arguments to the NEB (PDF).

Read our Population viability analysis of Southern Resident killer whales (PDF).

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