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Oceans Update Winter 2013

Oceans Update

Letter from the Executive Director

It didn’t take us long to get back up to speed after the Christmas break; we hit the ground running in January and I’m excited to share this month’s highlights with you.

In this Oceans Update, you’ll find a report on new milestones in the Sustainable Seafood and Clear the Coast campaigns (we found a boat!). Our new report on the Kinder Morgan pipeline is also described. I thought I’d bring you up to date on some other activities we’ve been up to this month.

Sustainable fisheries work included follow up on the first year of trawl fishing under the precedent-setting agreement we helped negotiate with the trawl fleet. It looks like none of the trawlers caught anywhere near the limit that was placed on sponges and corals, meaning they have co-operated fully in avoiding the reefs we identified during our Finding Coral Expedition.

On the aquaculture front, we’ve continued to demand action on the Cohen Commission report and laid plans to ensure that it is not shelved in Ottawa. We will continue to monitor licence applications this year to ensure that the many conditions laid down by Justice Cohen are followed.

The tanker campaign continues preparation for the Enbridge Northern Gateway hearings: We’re now working closely with our lawyers at Ecojustice to help them prepare to cross-examine Enbridge’s and the government’s witnesses.

At Living Oceans, we know that it’s not just British Columbians who care about healthy oceans. We’ve already heard from many of you across the country that you oppose the pipeline and Karen Wristentanker proposals that would see raw bitumen exported from the West Coast. I invite you to add your photo to our Keep it Clean map, sending a strong message to government that we want an oil-free coast.

Best regards,
Karen Wristen
Executive Director

Taxpayers would foot most of the bill for a spill

Financial Liability for Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tanker route map

Canadians could be on the hook for as much as 90 percent of the cost of an oil tanker spill, according to our latest report on pipeline and tanker proposals. Financial Liability for Kinder Morgan, comes on the heels of the company’s recent announcement it has upped its expansion proposal for the TransMountain pipeline through Metro Vancouver, to enlarge the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil products, including diluted bitumen, per day.

That increase would mean more than 400 oil tankers per year loading up in Burnaby and cruising past Stanley Park to English Bay and out into the Salish Sea, already considered one of Canada’s most at-risk bodies of water. The shipping route passes through the southern Gulf Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca before reaching the open ocean.

Currently, about 80 tankers each year take on oil products at Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. The proposed escalation, when combined with other plans to expand shipping on British Columbia’s South Coast would mean a phenomenal increase in the risk of a serious oil spill in B.C.’s most populous and most visited regions.

“We analyzed the funds available to pay for spill response costs and damages caused by a major tanker spill,” said Karen Wristen, Living Oceans’ Executive Director. “The insurance would provide only $1.34 billion, or about one tenth of the estimated cost.”

It is a telling fact that no-one has as yet tried to calculate the actual economic loss to the southern B.C. economy that would follow on a major oil spill. However, when Washington State examined the potential impact there, they concluded that losses would amount to 165,000 jobs and $10.8 billion in economic activity. A recent UBC study concluded that a major spill in northern B.C. waters would cost the economy a similar amount. And the Exxon Valdez spill is variously estimated to have cost the company between $9 to $12 billion—and it’s still not cleaned up.Tanker in English Bay

Wrecked boat spotted as more marine debris hits northern Vancouver Island

Another small Japanese vessel has been located intact among masses of debris accumulating on Vancouver Island’s western shores. Living Oceans Society’s Will Soltau made the discovery while on helicopter surveillance over the west coast of northern Vancouver Island on January 16. The small boat was approximately six meters in length, similar to a skiff found on Spring Island outside the village of Kyuquot, B.C. in August 2012.

Washed up kiff Lifejacket

“We landed on the beach but the skiff was too encrusted with gooseneck barnacles to find a vessel ID plate,” said Will Soltau, manager of Living Ocean’s Clear the Coast marine debris program. “We found two lifejackets with Japanese writing very near to the boat so we took photos of everything and sent those to the government agencies managing tsunami debris.”

Through Clear the Coast, Living Oceans is organizing the drive to find, remove and dispose of marine debris from the surface to the seafloor around Northern Vancouver Island. The program is tackling ghost fishing gear, inter-tidal debris and derelict vessels—all growing issues facing coastal communities because marine debris affects ocean health.

Peter Barratt, Operations Manager at West Coast Helicopters, was piloting the helicopter on the reconnaissance trip north from San Josef Bay to the south shore of the Brooks Peninsula when the debris was spotted.

“There has always been debris on the beaches.” Barratt said. “But from my past experience, the amount of debris—especially Styrofoam—is really increasing.”Barratt has been flying helicopters over northern Vancouver Island for more than 30 years.

The boat’s location has been reported to Transport Canada who will try to identify the vessel from the photos.

Clear the Coast is coordinating the efforts of northern Vancouver Island volunteers, community organizations, service clubs, businesses and local governments that want to pitch in by cleaning up the local waters and shorelines. West Coast Helicopters is partnering with Living Oceans  to assess the situation on the beaches.

Will will be making presentations about marine debris to local groups throughout the winter, and will coordinate clean-up efforts beginning in summer 2013. Find out more about our Clear the Coast program where you can find an on-line debris reporting form and an interactive map cataloguing the reports and clean-up activities.

Canada Safeway makes choosing ocean-friendly seafood easy with SeaChoice labelling

On January 24 Canada Safeway took another leap in its role as a leader in sustainable seafood when it unveiled its new in-store consumer information program. Safeway shoppers in western Canada will now be able to easily identify which fresh and frozen seafood items are the best ocean-friendly choices.

SeaChoice traffic light rankings

SeaChoice has trained Canada Safeway’s seafood staff to help them guide their customers through the growing number of sustainable seafood products that are available to shoppers. SeaChoice also provided the western Canadian retail giant with sourcing assistance, policy development and merchandising, and outreach support.

“Canada Safeway really is walking the talk when it comes to their sustainable seafood commitment,” stated Kelly Roebuck, Living Oceans’ SeaChoice representative. “SeaChoice applauds the amount of dedication, time and effort by Safeway to meet their 2015 timeline to remove red-ranked seafood.”

Demand for seafood has increased substantially over the last 50 years and today one billion people globally depend on seafood as a source of protein.

“Balancing the needs of our customers and the needs of our planet is a challenge that the grocery industry faces on a daily basis,” said Bill Sexsmith of Canada Safeway. “By working with SeaChoice and our various suppliers, we strive to provide high-quality seafood that is not only a ‘best choice’ for our customers but also for our planet’s oceans.”

Safeway’s FAD-free tuna more ocean-friendly

Safeway canned tunaFish Aggregating Device

Canada Safeway has also launched its new “responsibly caught”skipjack canned tuna. The product is the first private-label brand in North America to make a commitment to using only tuna caught by free-school purse-seine methods rather than using harmful fish-aggregating-devices (“FADs”). A FAD is a man-made object used to attract fish such as tuna. It is usually made of buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor with concrete blocks. Over 300 species of fish are known to gather around FADs.

The problem with FADs is bycatch; species with little or no commercial value such as sea turtles, sharks, rays and juvenile tuna, are injured or killed in the process of catching tuna.

FAD-free fishermen use radar, sonar and eyesight to locate tuna. Once a school of tuna is spotted, two boats lower a net called a purse seine is lowered into the water around the fish and then closed at the bottom. Safeway discontinued its private label yellowfin canned tuna because overfishing and  FAD concerns. Approximately 70 percent of canned tuna is caught using FADs.