The clock is ticking for the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Honourable Steven Guilbeault, to decide whether to approve or reject Roberts Bank Terminal 2. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s proposed project would double the size of its shipping terminal in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary.
The Minister has 59 days to make a decision, which means that by late April, the fate of Terminal 2 and its impacts on the Fraser River estuary will be known.
Below, find an email template that you can send to your local MP, with information on how to find your MP’s email address.
Take action now
Call or email your MP and tell them that the federal government must reject Roberts Bank Terminal 2. You can find your MP and their email on the House of Commons website by simply inputting your postal code. Below, use our email to copy or change as you see fit.
The Fraser River Estuary – a nursery and feeding ground
The Fraser River Estuary connects a food web linking fish, birds, and marine mammals across thousands of kilometres of the North Pacific Ocean. Even at a fraction of their former abundance, the estuary is the rearing grounds for Canada’s largest runs of Pacific salmon. It is critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident killer whales who follow adult Chinook salmon to their natal river, and more than 100 other species at risk of extinction call the estuary home.
Expert panel identifies permanent, irreversible, and continuous harm
In 2020, the Impact Assessment Agency identified in a 613 page report (PDF) that Terminal 2 would incur adverse cumulative effects on juvenile Chinook salmon from the Lower Fraser and South Thompson rivers. These Chinook populations are the primary fish that Southern Resident killer whales forage on in the summer months. The Agency concluded that the effects on Chinook salmon would be permanent, irreversible, and continuous.
Further, the expansion of Terminal 2 will increase shipping traffic and underwater noise in the Salish Sea. Southern Residents are already in the presence of boats and ships 85% of the time they use the inside waters of the Salish Sea. Reductions in feeding success in the presence of vessels can be as high as 40%, meaning whales don’t get enough to eat.
As such, the Agency concluded increased marine shipping and its underwater noise would result in significant, adverse cumulative effects on Southern Resident killer whales. Between the increased underwater noise and declining Fraser Chinook abundances that are anticipated from Terminal 2, it is probable these conditions will increase their likelihood of extinction.
Proponents of this project have relied on the concept of ‘habitat compensation’ and ‘offsetting’ to make up for these significant adverse effects.
However, these approaches cannot counteract the serious effects the massive expansion will have on the habitat of threatened and endangered species.
You cannot offset extinction
A 2016 study found only 33% of previous habitat compensation projects implemented by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and others have actually offset the harmful effects from their projects. A Canada-wide study of fish habitat compensation projects found that it was simply not possible to compensate for some habitats. Not accounting for these failures undermines Canada’s goal of conserving fish habitat.
Letter from scientists
In Spring 2021, 12 internationally recognized scientists and experts on Chinook, Southern Resident killer whales, and the Fraser River Estuary wrote a letter to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault urging him to reject Terminal 2.
The letter cites the above cumulative effects and encourages the federal government to take a precautionary approach in their decision-making – namely using informed prudence in the face of high uncertainty to ensure that irreversible changes won’t occur.
Letter from Dockworker’s Union
In February 2023, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) released an open letter voicing their opposition to Terminal 2. The letter highlights the numerous, widely known, and irreversible impacts that Terminal 2 will have on sensitive aquatic ecosystems, and states that the approval of Terminal 2 “flies in the face” of the landmark achievements and goals of the COP15 Biodiversity Conference.
Canada’s promise to protect biodiversity
At the recent 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal (COP 15), Canada advocated for halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Minister Guilbeault himself stated that “real transformative change, innovation and a proper accounting for the true value of nature in decision-making across all sectors is needed,” and “the health of our forests, oceans, animals, and all biodiversity, underpins the very strength and stability of our societies. We cannot take that for granted any longer […] Now it is time to deliver.”
By rejecting Terminal 2, Minister Guilbeault would indicate his words were not just political rhetoric. It would demonstrate the federal government’s stated commitment to legislation like Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and policies under the Fisheries Act to recover species and populations.
Now is the time to remind the federal government to act on their promises.
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