Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.
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Howe Sound Spill Highlights Derelict Danger

February 1, 2018
Derelict barge spills unknown quantity of diesel oil

Vancouver: Reports are surfacing today of an oil spill that apparently occurred early Wednesday morning near Port Mellon in Howe Sound, near the site of the Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Mill when a derelict barge sank. It is presently unclear how much oil was aboard; early estimates place the visible spill at 200 litres.

"This is so sad," said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society and a resident of Howe Sound. "I had just this morning posted a beautiful video by our former mayor, Bob Turner, showcasing the amazing abundance of anchovy in the water. Seabirds, seals and even a sea lion can be seen feeding on the schooling fish."

Howe Sound has been coming back to life since the pulp mill shut down and other local pollution sources, such as the Brittania Mine, were abated. Whales and other marine mammals are seen far more often in the Sound than they have been for decades.

"Diesel can be a problem for schooling fish like the anchovy and herring that spawn in these waters. Larval stages of the fish are particularly susceptible; and it's spawning season for herring right now," said Wristen.

While diesel spilled on water will mostly evaporate over the space of hours to days, the spill is close to shore and some oil may strand on the beach, where it can contaminate shellfish and refloat on high tides, posing an ongoing pollution issue.

"This event really highlights the need to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels on the coast," said Wristen. "The federal government has created the Abandoned Boat Program to help deal with the cost of removal, but it's still up to other levels of government or marina owners to apply for funding and cover part of the cost."

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Contact Information

Karen Wristen:  604-788-5634

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