Terminal 2 report finds “significant adverse and cumulative effects” to endangered killer whales and Fraser River Chinook

This finding reinforces Raincoast Conservation Foundation conclusion that the consequences of expansion are not justified.

Sidney, BC: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency issued its findings today on the ecological implications from the expansion of the shipping terminal at Roberts Bank in the Fraser Estuary.

Raincoast and its intervenor partners, all represented by Ecojustice, made extensive submissions on the implications of the project to Fraser River Chinook salmon and to Southern Resident killer whales. The panel concluded that the implications of the project, both from the estuary footprint and from the migration disruption caused by terminal placement, would have significant adverse and cumulative effects to populations of Fraser Chinook. The panel also concluded that the project, including its associated increase in marine shipping, would result in increased underwater noise, decreased Chinook salmon prey availability, and potential ship strikes, leading to significant adverse effects on endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

“We are relieved to see that the review panel concluded this expansion would have significant and cumulative effects on endangered Southern Residents and their prey, Fraser Chinook salmon,” said Raincoast Wild Salmon Program Director, Misty MacDuffee. “If this process is to be consistent with science-based decision-making, then the federal government cannot approve a project with significant consequences for two of British Columbia’s most iconic species.”

“Our submission to the panel identified the problems associated with the terminal, particularly as a migration barrier for juvenile Fraser River Chinook salmon, ” said Raincoast biologist Dave Scott. “Access to these habitats is crucial for juvenile Chinook salmon which rely heavily on estuary habitats in their first few months of life prior to their ocean journey.”

“While we agreed with many of the panel’s conclusions, we are very disappointed to see them recommend more hatchery salmon as a solution to the problem of habitat loss. This is a strategy that has failed profoundly in the United States and there is growing evidence hatcheries do more harm than good when it comes to the recovery of wild salmon populations,” concluded MacDuffee.

Addendum: Key findings

  • Based on the effects due to the Project and marine shipping associated with the Project on underwater noise, Chinook salmon prey availability and potential ship strikes, and in the absence of effective and mandatory mitigation measures, the Panel concludes that there would be a significant adverse effect on the Southern Resident Killer Whale. The Panel concludes that the Project and marine shipping associated with the Project would result in a significant adverse cumulative effect on the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
  • The Panel concludes that the construction and operations of the Project would contribute to additional greenhouse gas emissions in the Metro Vancouver area even after the application of mitigation measures. This contribution would result in a significant adverse cumulative effect.
  • The Panel concludes that effects on juvenile chum and Chinook salmon due to light and underwater noise would not be fully mitigated and therefore would result in a residual adverse effect.
  • The Panel concludes that while quantification of a migration disruption effect could not be undertaken, the presence of the Project footprint would add to any existing disruption effects from the existing terminal and causeway and further restrict the access of juvenile salmon to productive habitats within the inter-causeway area.
  • The Panel concludes that the Project will have an adverse residual effect on juvenile Chinook salmon due to migration disruption, coupled with minor adverse effects in the acoustic and light environments during construction and operations. This effect would be high in magnitude, local in extent, permanent in duration, and irreversible. The Panel concludes that this effect would be significant.
  • The Panel recommends that the Government of Canada develop and implement intergovernmental management programs for the improvement and long-term environmental management of the Fraser River estuary and the Salish Sea. The programs should include: a governance body made up of public and private sector stakeholders and representatives of Indigenous groups to oversee the programs, funding commitments, monitoring requirements, a decision-making framework around possible future resource development and management, environmental conservation programs, community sustainable and subsistence activities and a public reporting system. The Intergovernmental Management Programs should be developed to align with the result of a regional environmental assessment (See Recommendation 70)
  • The Panel further agrees that the requirement for a regional assessment is overdue and needs to be given serious consideration by governments, as well as how the outcome of such an assessment will be tied to management objectives.
Chinook salmon pool in a stream habitat.
Photo by NOAA.