B.C. Ferries passengers watch killer whales near the vessel on its way from Tsawwaassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

MLAs spar over B.C. Ferries, oil tankers and impact on whales

NDP government defends pipeline protests, big increase in ferry sailings

Opposition critics are questioning the B.C. government about its intention to add 2,700 more B.C. Ferries sailings per year to coastal waters, while working with Washington state to prevent one additional oil tanker a day from B.C. in the name of protecting killer whales.

In its reconsideration report on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the National Energy Board noted that tankers are only one source of shipping noise and disturbance for marine life in the Salish Sea, the name given to coastal waters off southern B.C. and Washington.

Noise and potential ship strikes from ferries and all other large vessels affect the feeding and movement of humpback, grey, fin and killer whales, as well as basking sharks and leatherback sea turtles, the NEB report says. In its second report listing conditions for approval of the pipeline project, the federal regulator calls for quieter vessels and slower transit through coastal areas including the Swiftsure bank, the passage south of Victoria where a steady stream of cargo ships and tankers pass by each day.

READ MORE: Inslee lowers pressure on Trans Mountain opposition

READ MORE: 2,700 more sailings coming to 10 B.C. Ferries routes

In the legislature, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson called on Premier John Horgan to explain why he frequently calls on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to support his opposition to Trans Mountain, but neither mention the Alaska crude oil tankers that supply refineries in the state.

“We have tankers going through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, two kilometres from this building, 500 of them a year for the last 45 years,” Wilkinson said. “And this government says it’s going to solve the world’s problems by blocking the Trans Mountain pipeline so we can buy all our fuel from Washington state.”

Last week Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced that an agreement has been reached with B.C. Ferries to reinstate 2,700 sailings that were cancelled due to low passenger volume in 2014. In an interview, Trevena said the government is aware of environmental impacts, but the need to improve ferry service is urgent for residents and businesses.

“B.C. Ferries has been very strong on the green transportation file,” Trevena said. “They’re not only shifting to LNG and hybrid electric, but they’re very conscious of the impact on southern resident orcas, and are very aware of their impact on the environment.”

The services getting additional sailings include Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and Port Hardy, Salt Spring Island, Bowen Island, Texada Island and Gabriola Island. Quadra Island, where Trevena lives, is getting increased service to Campbell River and to Cortes Island.

The 2013 service review reported the vehicle utilization on each sailing. For Quadra Island to Campbell River, the 8 p.m. ferry was running at less than five per cent capacity seven days per week.

In its third quarter financial statement, released last week, B.C. Ferries reported its year-to-date earnings were $93.2 million, $7.7 million lower than the same time last year. The loss is partly due to the NDP government’s reduction of fares and reinstatement of free weekday travel for seniors announced last year.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stuck barge removed from Quadra, TSB on its way to investigate

‘Had it been loaded with railcars containing toxic chemicals … we may have had a serious issue’

Fish Are Food: A look at seafood sustainability

Conference at Maritime Heritage Centre to discuss food security from a marine perspective

Area director concerned about status of barge ahead of expected windy conditions

Uncertainty of Nana Provider’s hull condition adding to unease

Smile cookies kick off Campbell River’s 46th Christmas Hamper Fund

As Tim Hortons owners Cathy and Dave Paquin smilingly put it, “A… Continue reading

Campbell River’s Canyon View Trail loop planned for opening in mid-December

Campbell River trail users were hopeful the Canyon View Trail loop may… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. man trapped under ATV for days shows promise at Victoria hospital

Out of induced coma, 41-year-old is smiling, squeezing hands and enjoying sunshine

Ski resorts selling mountain water is a risky move, critics say

Alberta allowed ski resort in Kananaskis Country to sell about 50 million litres to third party

Sportsnet looks at new options for Coach’s Corner time slot, post-Don Cherry

Spokesperson says Hall of Fame feature on tap this weekend after co-host’s firing

Grand Forks residents protest on bridge to call for ‘fair’ compensation after 2018 floods

Demonstrators also criticized how long it has taken to be offered land deals

B.C. taxi drivers no longer exempt from wearing a seatbelt

Before, taxi drivers were allowed to forego a seatbelt when driving under 70 kilometres an hour

Car dash covered in papers not an excuse for speeding, Delta police warn

After pulling driver over for speeding, police found his speedometer blocked by a stack of papers

B.C. woman seeks return of jewelry box containing father’s cremated remains

Sicamous RCMP report handmade box was stolen from a storage locker

Vancouver police officer charged with sexual assault in apparent off-duty incident

Jagraj Roger Berar, 51, of Surrey, charged in incident alleged to have happened in Whistler

CN Rail confirms job cuts as weakening economy cuts into freight volumes

Railroad also said it was affected by a slowdown in the B.C.’s forestry sector

Most Read