Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico proves the need for an oil free coast in British Columbia

April 29, 2010

In light of the failed attempts to clean up the oil that is spewing from a sunken rig in the Gulf of Mexico, First Nations and environmental groups are calling on the federal government to implement a permanent ban on oil and gas development and tanker traffic on the North Coast of British Columbia. Despite having the required safety mechanism on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, an explosion occurred, the technology to stop the oil from spilling in to the ocean failed, and the weather delayed the clean up efforts.

“Over 30 years ago the federal and provincial governments prohibited oil and gas development and oil tankers on this coast because they knew that the threat of an oil spill was too great, a clean up too hard, and our ocean too valuable.” says Jennifer Lash., Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “Now the Enbridge Gateway project is threatening to bring over 225 oil tankers onto our coast every year putting at risk our whales, birds, fish, bears, and coastline.


The Enbridge Gateway mega-project would involve a 1,170 kilometre pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands to Kitimat, where 525,000 barrels of oil per day will be loaded onto oil tankers that will thread their way down Douglas Channel to the Inside Passage, bound for Asia. That works out to about 225 loaded, massive oil tankers per year, passing each other in the channel and other narrow, confined areas along the coast.

In March 2010, 10 First Nations from the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii banned oil tankers from their traditional territories.

“The First Nations governments have taken action to protect the ocean that supports our communities,” says Art Sterritt. Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations. “Now we would like to see the same leadership from the federal government.


The groups are pointing to the challenges of cleaning up the spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a grim reminder that failed technology and bad weather can make the impossible even harder.

“They thought they could contain the spill off the coast of Louisiana but every day they appear to be having more challenges,” says Nikki Skuce, Senior Energy Campaigner of Forest Ethics. “Apparently oil rigs are a ‘considerably safer for the environment than tankers’ – which isn’t much reassurance as we’re asked to risk our coast for Enbridge’s profits. An oil spill on our North Coast would be an imaginable tragedy.


The proposed shipping routes are known for their whale, dolphins, sea birds, and other marine life. The tanker route also goes right through the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route would violate the longstanding ban on oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s northern waters.

CLICK HERE to see the interactive oil spill model that shows how an oil spill from tankers, a drilling rig, cruise ships, and container vessels could affect B.C.'s coastal ecosystems and communities.


Contact Information

Art Sterritt, Coastal First Nations – 604-868-9110

Jennifer Lash, Living Oceans Society – 250-741-4006

Nikki Skuce, Forest Ethics – 778-210-0117

Pat Moss, Friends of Wilds Salmon 250-847-9693