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.)

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

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Nanaimo’s Joanne Secord is a quarterfinalist in Inked Magazine’s Cover Model Search contest. (Janayh Wright Photography)
50-year-old Vancouver Island mom hopes her tattoos will earn a magazine cover shoot

Nanaimo’s Joanne Secord on cusp of semifinals in Inked Magazine contest

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, before she knew she would change literature. Photo Wikipedia
DeMeer: And Then There Were None opened my eyes to books

What book knocked your booties off when you were young?

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

One of the approximately 1,200 street lights within the city of Parksville that will be changed to 3000 Kelvin LED under BC Hydro’s Streetlight Replacement Project. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville to go ahead with 3000K streetlights for BC Hydro project

Concerns about excessive brightness and resident privacy raised

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

LaRae Richards loads an order for deliver via Uber Eats Wednesday afternoon at Red Onion Burgers in Mountlake Terrace on May 17, 2017.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Uber Eats service area expands to Saanich Peninsula

Delivery platform launched in Victoria in 2018

OrcaFest parade 2019. (North Island Gazette file photo)
COVID-19: Port McNeill’s annual OrcaFest cancelled again

“We promise you that once we are safely able to do so, OrcaFest will be back!!”

Matt Simpson at the Chemainus Ball Park where he spent a lot of his development time over the years. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Cool transition to college baseball in Wisconsin for Island ballplayer

Chemainus baseball product anxious to get going after last season lost due to COVID

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

(Black Press file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Wexford Creek home in Nanaimo declared over

Social visits resume at south Nanaimo facility today, Feb. 27, says Island Health

Most Read