Responding to a 2006 spill near Bella Bella when a 10,000-tonne tanker barge ran aground in Seaforth Channel leaking more than 100,000 litres of diesel fuel. (Western Canada Marine Response Corp.)

North Island identified as highly sensitive to oil spills, despite low probabilty

“A little bit of oil in a very sensitive area can have big impact. It’s worth being concerned about.”

In a report released Oct. 6, non-profit research centre Clear Seas has identified the north Island’s coast as being highly sensitive to oil spill impacts.

The report does not predict probability of a spill, but looked at how a spill of any size would impact the area.

“The probability is higher in the Juan de Fuca than here, but this study assesses what the impact would be, and it’s severe,” said Clear Seas’ executive director Paul Blomerus.

Researchers used publicly available data to assess biological, physical and socioeconomic categories, combining them to calculate sensitivity ratings up and down B.C.’s coast. They noted Indigenous rights and interests as an important category, but said there was not enough available data, and so that “will need to be incorporated at a future date.”

Several areas got a “very high sensitivity” score: places around Haida Gwaii, much of the Prince Rupert shore line, a few spots on the central coast, Nigei Island near Port Hardy, the entire Hardy Bay, areas near Nootka Island and several spots in the the Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds, and as far inland as Port Alberni. The report did not include the Juan de Fuca, Georgia or Johnson straits.

Much of the rest of the coast line is considered “high sensitivity.”

“What’s novel about the approach we’ve taken is to combine the socioeconomic sensitivities with the natural environment. People inhabit these coast lines too. Fishing, tourism … a spill would have catastrophic impacts for them. We want to make sure those are taken into risk assessment,” Blomerus said.

Commercial fisheries, tourism, port activities and recreational opportunities were assessed, contributing to some of the high scores. Aquaculture would also potentially be affected by an oil spill, as many of the fish farms in B.C. are near some of the identified high risk zones, however exactly how oil spills would interact with fish farms has not been specifically researched.

The report is publicly available and Blomerus hopes decision makers will use it as a resource for planning decisions.

“The theme of all the work we do is that better information leads to better planning.”

RELATED: New Coast Guard facility in the works for Port Renfrew

RELATED: Oil spill response base on track for Ucluelet, Port Alberni

Two key aspects of planning to mitigate spill risks are to make sure all ships are held to the highest safety and maintenance standards, and to make sure the clean-up assets are in place. That means having detailed and accurate maps of sensitive zones, and well-equipped response crews which is a combination of the Coast Guard and Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

As part of negotiations around the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby and will triple capacity, and increase tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet by seven times — Western Canada Marine Response Corporation received funding to build and expand several marine response units in B.C. The main hub on Vancouver Island will be Nanaimo — construction started last week — supported by locations in Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Beecher Bay and Sidney.

It also has a hub in Prince Rupert, and recently “established a presence” in Kitimat because of the LNG terminal under construction, which will bring more ships to town. The Coast Guard is also getting six new stations as a result of the Trans Mountain expansion.

Western Canada Marine Response Corp has the same sensitivity data as Clear Seas and has prepared hundreds of single page, detailed response plans for specific areas, such as the Quatse delta in Hardy Bay.

“For example imagine a small bay that has an important eel grass bed, if we can get in there and lay a boom before spill we can protect that area before the oil reaches it,” said communications manager Michael Lowry.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Environmentoil & gas

Just Posted

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

Highly poisonous mushroom found fruiting near Filberg Park

The Calgary Zoo is aiding in recovery efforts for the Vancouver Island marmot, an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
Despite challenges, 2020 good year for Vancouver Island marmot population

In 2019, the foundation counted 60 pups; this year, it reached 46

Items seized over four days of targeted vehicle checks Nanaimo and Victoria by members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC photo)
Gang enforcement team seizes drugs and weapons in Nanaimo and Victoria

Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. checked 33 vehicles over four days

(Citizen file)
Hooch the pooch saved from icy Cowichan River

Cowichan Search and Rescue swiftwater team called in to retrieve stranded dog from sandbar

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

The street value of the more than one-and-a-quarter kilograms of cocaine seized by VicPD officers was over $150,000. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police seize fentanyl, more than $150,000-worth of cocaine

Charges laid against two Victoria men in months-long investigation

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

An arrest warrant has been issued for Brian Thomas, of Nanaimo, who is accused of throwing a “spear-like object” at a vehicle. (Photo submitted)
Warrant out for Nanaimo man who allegedly threw ‘spear-like object’ at vehicle

Brian Thomas failed to make court appearance, say RCMP

Investigators seized sophisticated equipment including credit card embossers, credit card PIN machines, heavy duty printers and computers used to create fraudulent cards. (West Shore RCMP handout)
West Shore RCMP arrest two, find 1,000 pieces of stolen ID in Langford

Investigation began after fraudulent bank draft used to buy vehicle in Colwood

Nanaimo RCMP Bike Patrol Unit members ride past Wesley Street on Tuesday morning. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo RCMP investigate knife threat, make arrest for alleged drug trafficking

Drugs, cash and knife found in belongings of man who matched description of suspect

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Campbell River RCMP. RCMP photo
Campbell River investigation results in multiple property crime charges

Eighteen seperate charges approved against Shauna Adams

Most Read