No mitigation measures can protect Southern Resident killer whales from the noise of Trans Mountain’s tanker traffic

Sidney, British Columbia – Today’s recommendation to approve the Trans Mountain expansion by the National Energy Board (NEB) disregards the consequences of oil tankers on the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.

“There is nothing that can currently be done to reduce the effects of tanker noise on Southern Resident killer whales. While the government says increased tanker traffic is a small percent of total traffic, an extra tanker per day will mean the whales will spend more time in the presence of ships and less time successfully feeding. This makes their recovery all but impossible,” said Misty MacDuffee, biologist and Wild Salmon Program Director with Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Raincoast served as expert interveners in the NEB’s reconsideration of the Trans Mountain expansion, submitting extensive scientific evidence on the effects the project will have on the Southern Resident killer whales and the risk to Fraser River Chinook salmon. Raincoast served as expert interveners in the first federal review of the Trans Mountain expansion, submitting over 500 pages of evidence to the NEB. When the federal cabinet initially approved the project, based on the previous NEB recommendation, Raincoast and Living Oceans Society, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, successfully challenged the approval in court.

The NEB’s new report identifies that the project is still “likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale.”

“Our expert evidence indicates that it may be impossible to mitigate the effects of project related shipping on Southern Resident killer whales,” said MacDuffee. “The recommendation to develop a noise offset program neglects the fact the population is already endangered under current conditions. If this project is approved increased noise and disturbance is a given, further degrading the habitat they need to recover.”

“Given the NEB recommendation, the question is whether the federal cabinet will once again determine that business and political interests associated with Trans Mountain outweigh the long term presence of Southern Resident killer whales in the Salish Sea,” said Chris Genovali, Raincoast Executive Director.