Hope for the whales of Robson Bight
VANCOUVER, B.C. ─ Living Oceans Society, Greenpeace Canada and concerned whale organizations are congratulating the governments of Canada and British Columbia for showing the leadership to mount an operation to recover logging equipment that sunk in Robson Bight last August. Today, B.C. Minister of the Environment Barry Penner and Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Loyala Hearn announced that the two governments had entered into a cost sharing agreement to raise the equipment.
“We are delighted that this ticking time bomb will be removed, and we are hopeful that this happens before the whales return to Robson Bight this summer,” said Jennifer Lash, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “It is crucial that the government put the salvage operation up for bid immediately so that the work can begin as soon as is possible.”
Robson Bight is the centre point of an ecological reserve created to protect vital habitat for B.C.’s Northern Resident orca community which is listed as “threatened” under Canada’s Species At Risk Act.
“This is absolutely fantastic news for the whales and Robson Bight ecological reserve,” said Dr. Paul Spong of OrcaLab. “The critical element now is timing. We have a small window of time before the orca return, so hopefully the government can move quickly.”
Underwater video filmed during the investigation of Robson Bight in December clearly shows the condition of the wrecked logging equipment, particularly the fuel truck which contains 10,000 litres of diesel and is sitting upright and intact on the seafloor. Six of the other pieces of logging equipment are also sitting upright on the seafloor, intact.
It appears likely that the initial spill last summer was caused when four pieces of equipment were crushed into each other as they came off the barge. That equipment contained over 2,000 litres of diesel that could easily have accounted for the slick that spread 14 kilometres along Johnstone Strait last August. The major concern is the potential for the remaining diesel and hydraulic fluid to leak out of corroding equipment while fish and whales are in the area. Last summer over 50 orca spent several hours swimming through the diesel spill.
“We cannot risk any further leaks into the ecological reserve or the surrounding ecosystem,” said Sarah King, oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.
Jennifer Lash, Executive Director, Living Oceans Society 604-696-5044
Paul Spong OrcaLab/Pacific Orca Society 250-974-8068 / 8251
Sarah King, Oceans Campaigner Greenpeace Canada 778-227-6458
Jim Borrowman Stubbs Island Whale Watching 250-974-8270
Bill and Donna Mackay Mackay Whale Watching 250-956-9865