Increased shipping and tanker traffic continues to be a major concern for Central Coast Nations, especially given the potential for catastrophic fuel spills in our waters.
We have already experienced the disastrous impacts of such spills on marine ecosystems and culturally significant areas—the Nathan E. Stewart spill in Heiltsuk territory is a recent example. These accidents also show the limitations of current federal and provincial emergency response capabilities, and the fundamental need for our Nations to develop local capacity. Our community members are often the first on scene at marine accidents; a timely and efficient local response could mean the difference between a minor clean-up and a catastrophic event.
In addition to larger tanker traffic traversing our waters to larger ports, the Central Coast also sees a significant amount of small commercial and transient vessels in our territorial waters, with resulting cumulative effects of released sewage, grey water, bilge water and other forms of waste.
The environmental, social and economic impacts from increased shipping traffic include:
- Damage to culturally important harvesting areas and ecologically rich intertidal zones;
- Spills of hazardous cargos or bunker oil;
- Noise pollution affecting whales and other marine species;
- Air and water pollution, including increased carbon emissions contributing to climate change;
- Increased potential for invasive species in Central Coast territories; and
- Large vessel traffic and crowded waterways affecting local fishers and ecotourism.
To prevent or mitigate these shipping impacts, Central Coast Nations have engaged federal and provincial agencies to enhance local marine response capabilities. Goals include improved regulations, monitoring and enforcement to prevent marine accidents and spills, and enhancing our Nations’ ability to respond quickly and effectively when incidents do occur.
CCIRA continues to support these efforts by helping communities develop, complete and implement response plans, including local Geographic Response Strategies—informed by Elders, harvesters and other community members.