Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Oil Spill Model - Sources and Credits

Technical Expertise

Triton Consultants Ltd., a maritime civil engineering firm, prepared data on ocean currents, tides and winds off of B.C.’s North Coast and provided technical expertise to generate the oil spill animation. The data was applied to the General NOAA Oil Modeling Environment (GNOME), a program developed by the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The GNOME software processed the data into a model that plots the trajectory and subsequent movements of oil spills. Read Triton’s technical report of the creation of this model (pdf 12.8 MB).

The outputs from the GNOME platform were subsequently converted into a set of interactive animated maps by Biro Creative using flash media to portray various oil spill scenarios in particular locations.

Oil Spill Selection Criteria

The locations of the oil spills in the scenarios were selected by Living Oceans based on known hazards on proposed tanker routes, or plausible sites for oil drilling platforms on the British Columbia coast. The interactive animations illustrate the movement of oil spills at four locations in different seasonal conditions over time.

The selected incidents were modeled on their occurrence in either January or July in order to examine the effects of significant seasonal weather and ocean conditions. The animated maps allow viewers to see the movement of the oil spills over a number of days, in order to understand how and where a spill would disperse over time.

Ness Rock

A potential navigational hazard identified by Transport Canada on the proposed tanker route. The winter and summer scenarios are based on the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 where 257,000 barrels (41 million litres) of crude oil leaked into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited website, 50 oil tanker spills this size or larger have occurred in the past 10 years. More information on international tanker spills.

The winter scenario is based on historic wind data from samples taken during January at the Nanakwa Shoal and the South Moresby wind stations. For the summer scenario, wind data was from July samples from the South Moresby wind station.

Fin Island

On the proposed tanker route between Caamano Sound and Douglas Channel and identified by local mariners as a high risk area for navigation. These scenarios portray spills of 10,000 barrels (1,590,000 litres). Historical wind information comes from January and July data recorded at the Nanakwa Shoal wind station.

Grenville Rock

A potential navigational hazard identified by Transport Canada on the proposed tanker route. The winter scenario represents an oil spill of similar size to the Exxon Valdez of 257,000 barrels (41 million litres) and is modeled on conditions from January wind data from North Hecate wind station. The summer scenario models a spill of 5,179 barrels (823,515 litres) of crude oil based on wind data from the North Hecate Strait wind station in July.

More about international spill rates based on amount of oil transported.

Sockeye B10

Site of a test oil well drilled in the 1950s. These scenarios demonstrate a spill of 1,069 barrels (158,987 litres), similar to a spill that occurred at the Terra Nova rig in the waters off of Newfoundland in 2004. Historical wind data from the months of July and January from the South Moresby wind station were used in modeling these scenarios.

Ecological Impacts/Map Legend

Sea Lions

Locations where Steller sea lions leave the water to rest or breed are indicated on the animated maps by dots. These locations are called “haul outs” or “rookeries”. Locational data were provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia.

Northern Resident Orcas

Important locational data were provided by Doug Sandilands of the Vancouver Aquarium and John Ford, DFO. Areas indicated in the pink represent potential critical habitat as identified in the research document, An Assessment of Critical Habitats of Resident Killer Whales in Waters off the Pacific Coast of Canada.

Gray Whale Route

A purple dotted line illustrates the approximate migration route of the eastern population of North Pacific gray whales between breeding waters along the west coast of Baja California, Mexico and feeding areas in the shallow waters of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The migration route illustrated here was adapted from COSEWIC’s Assessment and Status Report on the Eastern North Pacific Grey Whale, from 2004.

Local cetacean knowledge illustrated in the Fin Island scenario was collected by Hermann Meuter of Cetacealab. Thanks to Joy Hillier, DFO, for providing these data to Living Oceans.

Seabirds, Shorebirds, Sea Ducks and Water Fowl

This map represents a summation of Living Oceans Society seabird habitat maps. The orange area represents marine habitat for pelagic seabirds, shorebirds, moulting seaducks, and waterfowl in addition to locations of breeding colonies for many species. These data were compiled by Living Oceans from several sources including:

  • Decision Support Services, B.C. Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management;

See Living Oceans' map of marine bird habitat.

Salmon Streams

Red diamonds indicate salmon bearing streams along the coastline. These locations were selected from the Province of British Columbia’s Fishery Inventory Summary System (FISS).

Salmon Migration

The illustrated routes of adult salmon returning to rivers to spawn are based upon anecdotal information derived from interviews with DFO regional staff. This information is limited to the South and North Coast published in October 2004 and credited to both DFO and the Province of British Columbia Metadata. LOS thanks the DFO Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement Branch for making this information available.


Yellow coloured areas indicate herring spawning grounds the B.C. coastline. Herring data were provided by DFO and the Province of British Columbia.

Exxon Valdez oil spill

The Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels (200,324,000 litres) of oil. Approximately 257,000 barrels (41 million litres) were spilled, roughly equivalent to 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools. More than four summers and $2.1 billion (Exxon’s account) were spent before the effort was called off. Not all beaches were cleaned; some beaches remain oiled today.

At its peak the cleanup effort included approximately 10,000 workers, 1,000 boats and roughly 100 aircraft known as Exxon’s "army, navy and air force." However, many believe that wave action from winter storms did more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved.