Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The British Columbia government and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans will salvage critical pieces of wreckage from Robson Bight following the August 2007 barge incident, Environment Minister Barry Penner and federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn announced today. “Working in co-operation with the federal government, we have determined that this is the best way to proceed,” said Penner. “As with any salvage operation, there will be risks involved but we want to retrieve the equipment as soon as possible while minimizing potential impacts to orcas and other wildlife.” Recent video footage of the sunken equipment in Robson Bight Ecological Reserve shows that the vehicles are mostly upright and relatively undamaged, and do not appear to be leaking. “Recognizing how ecologically sensitive Robson Bight is, it’s important for our two levels of government to work together, so we can remove the major risk of future pollution in Robson Bight from the barge incident,” said Hearn. “We will consult with experts to determine the best approach to minimize the potential risk of this salvage operation.” The B.C. Ministry of Environment contracted with technical experts to provide additional analysis of the equipment in Robson Bight. This helped the two levels of government assess the risks posed by the equipment and identify options for its mitigation. Those analyses included a look by Environment Canada at the possible effects if any of the remaining petroleum products are released, and reviews by other experts to further assess the condition and stability of the tanker sitting on the seabed. The partners then reviewed the experts’ findings before determining next steps. Operational details of the salvage operation will be released shortly. On Aug. 20, 2007 a barge carrying vehicles and forestry equipment foundered, dumping 11 pieces of equipment inside the boundary of the protected area.

Kate Thompson
Ministry of Environment
250 953-4577
250 889-7972 (cell)

Dan Bate
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
604 775-8809
604 209-6225 (cell)

Ref - http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2005-2009/2008ENV0042-000569.htm

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Robson Bight Clean Up

When a barge dangerously laden with logging equipment, including a tanker truck of diesel fuel, spilled its load in the heart of the world’s best known orca habitat – the Ecological Reserve at Robson Bight - last August 20th, whale lovers were outraged, environmentalists dismayed, the public alerted, and even the oil industry took note. Canada’s initial response, via its Coastguard, was to discount the possibility of serious impacts by claiming all the oil and fuel had been released and dispersed. Eventually, after being pressured by NGOs who raised the funds needed to conduct an underwater investigation, the governments of British Columbia and Canada commissioned an underwater inspection of the spill site. This was completed in early December. Months later, despite video evidence (www.livingoceans.org) that the tanker truck is intact and probably still full of toxic diesel fuel we are still waiting for an announcement that the next obvious step – cleanup – will be undertaken before the orcas return in early summer. Organising and conducting the cleanup will take time, once the decision is made, and time is passing quickly. Meanwhile, a ticking toxic time bomb is lying on the ocean floor 350m below Robson Bight. The absence of official reaction to the evidence from the underwater inspection is puzzling, and disturbing. The only thing that seems clear is that once again the governments are dragging their feet. Possibly they are hoping the problem will go away if they ignore it long enough. That simply isn’t good enough. The orcas will return soon, probably in June & no later than July. If the fuel tanker isn’t removed by the time the orcas arrive, it will be considered too risky to do the job until they leave again in the fall or early winter. This means the cleanup could be pushed back to next spring. Meanwhile, the diesel might remain inside the tanker, or it might not. If it is released when orcas are present, the result could be catastrophic. Leaving it lying at the bottom with orcas swimming above is foolhardy and negligent. For the orcas’ sake, and to ensure the ecological integrity of Robson Bight, the job must be done now. Waiting any longer is not an option. As a matter of urgency, please insist that Canada and British Columbia act now. Thank you.

Here are the contact details:

The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent St. Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E6 Canada
phone: 1-613-992-3474
fax: 1-613- 995-7858
Eamail: Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

The Honourable Barry Penner
Minister of the Environment
P.O. Box 9047, Stn. Prov. Gov't.
Victoria, B.C.
V8W 9E2 Canada
phone: 1-250-387-1187
fax: 1-250-387-1356
Email: env.minister@gov.bc.ca

Refs - OrcaLab