Protect the Fraser Estuary from the Terminal 2 expansion

Photo by Michael O. Snyder.

Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is a megaport project that is slated to be built in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary, which will put further stress on an estuary that has already lost more than 85% of its floodplain habitat and supports 102 species at-risk of extinction. This project will have permanent and irreversible effects on threatened populations of Fraser Chinook salmon and the endangered Southern Resident killer whales that rely on them.

Underwater photo of 4 Salmon smolts.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.

The Fraser Estuary is of global importance

As a nursery and feeding ground, the estuary connects a food web 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. For birds, the estuary is globally significant and serves as a crucial stopover on migration routes stretching from South America to the high Arctic. Since 2019, Raincoast has been undertaking habitat restoration in the Fraser River Estuary.

Ignoring science

When the Canadian federal government approved the project in April of 2023, they not only ignored the robust scientific assessment of the environmental damage of the Terminal 2 megaproject, they also exposed their unfulfilled promises made on the United Nations COP15 Biodiversity Conference world stage, which included halting and reversing biodiversity loss.

Birds eye view of a pod of killer whales swimming near the surface of the ocean.
Photo by Lance Barrett Lennard / Ocean Wise. Taken under permit.
Roberts bank terminal 2 in the background with greenery in the foreground.
Photo by Michael O. Snyder.

We are taking legal action

With the support of our legal team at Ecojustice, Raincoast, David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, and the Wilderness Committee have filed an application for judicial review in federal court challenging the government’s decision to approve the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Significant adverse effects

In March 2020, the Canadian Impact Assessment Agency concluded that the Terminal 2 expansion project will:

  • Cause detrimental impacts on threatened Chinook salmon populations from the Fraser River that feed endangered Southern Resident killer whales. 
  • Destroy the legally-protected Critical Habitat of Southern Resident killer whales by increasing underwater noise and disturbance, thus reducing the whale’s ability to find and capture their Chinook salmon prey.

The Panel also concluded that these impacts could not be mitigated, offset, or compensated for by the measures proposed by VFPA. Offsetting describes the act of restoring or creating habitat elsewhere to make up for lost habitat as a result of a project.

Underwater image of salmon swimming.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.
Trucks and traffic leave from the port, disconnecting the estuary.
Photo by Michael Snyder.

You can’t offset extinction

Researchers have stressed that offsetting measures are rarely effective at making up for destroyed habitat (Quigley and Harper, 2006; Lievesley et al., 2016; zu Ermgassen et al., 2019), resulting in concerns regarding its use in the context of development projects (Bull et al. 2013).

The recovery of these species and populations is not compatible with approval of Roberts Bank Terminal 2.  The Fraser River Estuary needs increased habitat restoration and protection efforts to ensure threatened salmon, endangered Southern Resident killer whales, and all other at-risk species are put on a trajectory towards recovery – not extinction.