Terminal 2 expansion threatens the Fraser estuary

Working together, we can stop habitat destruction and safeguard species at the heart of the Salish Sea.

Terminal 2 at the end of a long causeway, with Vancouver Island in the distance.

The 4 km long Deltaport causeway severs connectivity and reduces habitat in the Fraser estuary. Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

The Port of Vancouver is proposing to double the size of its shipping terminal at Roberts Bank, putting further stress on an estuary that has already lost more than 70% of its natural habitat.

Since 2016, Raincoast has been undertaking research across the Fraser River estuary as we survey out-migrating juvenile salmon arriving from upper parts of the Fraser watershed. Our evidence to the federal panel assessing the Terminal 2 project argued that the existing terminal reduced the rearing area of the estuary and served as a barrier to the movement of young salmon. A doubling in the size of this terminal would further undermine habitat and migratory pathways for young salmon. Raincoast’s assessment of the project impacts on juvenile Chinook concluded that in addition to direct habitat loss from the increased footprint of the terminal, the expansion would further interrupt natural migration pathways between critical estuary habitats.

Since initiating juvenile salmon research in the estuary, Raincoast has also begun physical habitat restoration to restore connectivity across the estuary. As a nursery and feeding ground for species that are connected through food webs across the North Pacific, other conservation groups are similarly working to protect the species that call the Fraser estuary home.

In addition to supporting Chinook, the waters immediately adjacent to the Fraser estuary are critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident killer whales. As Raincoast has demonstrated in published research and argued in the courts, increased noise in the Salish Sea threatens whale recovery. Our previous analysis found that increasing Chinook salmon without addressing other threats was not enough on its own to meet Southern Resident recovery targets. Underwater noise must also be reduced to reverse their decline and rebuild their numbers. 

A doubling in the size of this terminal would further undermine habitat and migratory pathways for juvenile Fraser Chinook salmon.  Tweet This!

Concern for underwater noise on the status and recovery of endangered Southern Residents was also identified by scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). In their presentation to the federal panel, DFO’s lead killer whale scientist described how noise and disturbance from ships can interfere with successful foraging at key times in a hunt, even if it’s only brief. Southern Residents are a food-stressed population that can’t afford lost meals and wasted energy expenditure without consequences to their survival. 

Right now, the federal government is considering approval of the Terminal 2 expansion. The evidence before the government clearly shows significant impacts to Fraser Chinook salmon and Southern Resident killer whales. Please lend your voice in aid of protecting and restoring the Fraser estuary. 

Misty MacDuffee is a biologist and Wild Salmon Program Director

Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director

Misty is a biologist and the Program Director of Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program. Her most recent publication, with co-authors at Raincoast & the University of Victoria, identifies the importance of habitat mosaics for fish in the Fraser River estuary. She is dedicated to the long term survival of finned, furred, and feathered creatures.

Raincoast biologist Dave Scott in hardhat during jetty decommision

Dave Scott, Research and Restoration Coordinator for the Lower Fraser Salmon Program

Raincoast biologist David Scott is focussed on understanding juvenile salmon life histories in the Fraser Estuary to facilitate habitat restoration, salmon recovery and better management. Dave is also a PhD student in the Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation Laboratory at the University of British Columbia where he studies under highly renowned salmon researcher Dr. Scott Hinch.

The Fraser Estuary is of global importance

As a nursery and feeding ground, the estuary connects a foodweb linking fish, birds and marine mammals across thousands of kilometres of the North Pacific Ocean. It is the rearing grounds for Canada’s largest runs of Pacific salmon.

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