Category Archives: Fisheries

WCEL: Changes to Fisheries Act an Attack on Salmon


Read this blog from Andrew Gage at West Coast Environmental Law on the Harper Government’s plan to gut of the Fisheries Act. (March 19, 2012)

Last week fisheries biologist, Otto Langer, went public with a leaked draft of proposed amendments to the federal Fisheries Act which would remove any mention of fish habitat from the Act.  When asked about these rumours in Parliament the government seemed to confirm that changes along these lines have not been ruled out, although in a statement on Friday Fisheries and Oceans Canada emphasized that no final decision has been made.  

We don’t know the truth of these reports.  Indeed, the proposed amendments are so outrageous that one might ask whether they are a “straw man” – an idea set up to be knocked down.  Could this proposed amendment have been leaked so that when abandoned the government can appear that much more reasonable and balanced if and when it guts the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Species At Risk Act and other environmental laws?

We’re concerned about proposed amendments weakening a range of Canadian environmental laws, all of which are extremely important, but the amendments can be complicated.  But the proposed Fisheries Act amendment, if real, is easy to understand: removing legal protection for fish habitat will harm fish.  And, in BC at least, that will harm what is an iconic species – the salmon.  
Appreciation for the salmon, and concern about its habitat, cuts across the supporters of all political parties.  These proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act are about allowing business interests to destroy fish habitat and will be very difficult for the government to sell to Canadians.

Read more:


Mainstream Media, Former Politicians Finding Religion on BC Libs and Fish


It’s wondrous to behold! So many have seen religion at the same time!
Vaughn Palmer of the Postmedia Sun has finally got religion and is openly questioning the Liberal government’s position on the use of Telus resources to help build the new roof on BC Place Stadium! One looks in vain to see any criticism of consequence over the deal to build the roof in the first place so that the jock world had a better playpen at taxpayers’ expense.
Where, oh where, has there been any coverage in Vaughn’s columns over the years on fish farms, private power development, Enbridge’s pipeline project and tanker traffic down our coast and increased tanker traffic through Vancouver Harbour?
Mike Smyth of the Postmedia Province has got religion at long last and is highly critical of the Clark government’s refusal of the $35 million Telus offered to have the jocks’ publicly financed sand box named for them.
Where, oh where, has there been any coverage in Mike’s columns over the years of fish farms, private power development, Enbridge’s pipeline project and tanker traffic down our coast and increased tanker traffic through Vancouver Harbour?
There’s a guy named Fletcher, I think, who works, I believe, for the David Black newspapers, who manages to kiss the establishment’s backside while anointing its feet – a daunting task which he has easily managed. I somehow doubt that he’ll see the light – although he did come out against the Enbridge pipeline not too long ago.
Tom Siddon, formerly Federal Fisheries Minister, has seen religion and is critical of his old party for removing “habitat” from the Fisheries Act. Here’s the story from the Edmonton Journal.

Siddon said the wording would turn fish into a commodity and overlook the importance of the broader ecosystem that, for instance, allows British Columbia’s famous salmon resource to thrive.

“It’s like saying as long as we have a happy lifestyle and can go to the rec centre and keep fit, it doesn’t matter what the air is like that we breath or the water that we drink,” Siddon said.

“If we want to preserve and protect our fish stocks, it’s more than a commercial equation.”

Wasn’t Siddon the federal Fisheries Minister when a so-called compromise was brokered between the senior governments and Alcan which agreed to lower the Nechako River – which Alcan’s Kemano II project would do despite a Department of Fisheries study condemning the project in no uncertain terms? A report of 1985 which didn’t see the light of day until it was leaked to me at the height of the battle in the 1990’s?

Here’s what I said during the fight against this hideous project. Scientists were giving evidence that the proposals were catastrophic to salmon runs. The deal was struck in the absence of all seven DFO scientists who had worked on the project and the commission was, in effect, given Alcan’s figures to work with. The chairman of the Settlement Group, Dr. David Strangway, wouldn’t know a sockeye salmon from a sea cucumber.

I strongly support what Mr. Siddon said last week and hope his former mates take him seriously. I say – in all  seriousness – that we all should be like Mr. Siddon and ponder on positions we took in earlier times. As Emerson put it, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
As environmentalists, the Common Sense Canadian welcomes Mr. Siddon’s support. With his long government experience and his position as Fisheries Minister his words carry considerable weight.

When one looks at the entire picture of the Harper government in the environment, a thought occurs. That bunch are for fish farms, private river projects, pipelines carrying toxic gunk over 1,100kms of our pristine wilderness, huge tankers down our extremely dangerous coast, all without much meaningful public input.

It seems clear that our MPs join the Prime Minister in giving British Columbians the finger, leaving civil disobedience the only option left for thousands of British Columbians who condemn Harper’s wanton abandonment of our heritage.

May I respectfully suggest that you post on the fridge this list of 21 Conservative toadies who have abandoned their province to the Harper whip:

Ed Fast Abbotsford
Dick Harris – Cariboo – Prince George
Mark Strahl – Chilliwack – Fraser Canyon
Kerry Lynne Findlay – Delta – Richmond East MP
Nina Grewal – Fleetwood – Port Kells
Cathy McLeod – Kamloops – Thompson – Cariboo
Ron Cannan – Kelowna – Lake Country
David Wilks – Kootenay – Columbia
Mark Warawa – Langley
James Lunney – Nanaimo – Alberni
Andrew Saxton – North Vancouver
Dan Albas – Okanagan – Coquihalla
Colin Mayes – Okanagan – Shuswap
Randy Kamp – Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge – Mission
James Moore – Port Moody – Westwood – Port Coquitlam
Bob Zimmer – Prince George – Peace River
Alice Wong – Richmond
Russ Hiebert – South Surrey – White Rock – Cloverdale
John Duncan – Vancouver Island North
Wai Young – Vancouver South
John Weston – West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country


Audio: Damien Gillis Talks the Assault on Fish by Harper, BC Governments


Get MP3 (55 MB)

Listen to Damien Gillis and CHLY’s “A Sense of Justice” host Rae Kornberger’s recent wide-ranging discussion on the war being waged against fish by both the Canadian and BC Governments. The pair cover everything from Stephen Harper’s underhanded plan to gut the fisheries act in order to pave the way for oil pipelines and other major industrial projects that would harm fish habitat, to news on the impacts of salmon farms and private river diversion projects on wild fish. (March 14, 2012 – 46 min)


Harper’s Underhanded Gutting of Fisheries Act Designed to Help Enbridge and Co.


Here, ladies and gentlemen, are your Conservative MPs and their contacts:

Edward Fast – Abbotsford
Dick Harris – Cariboo – Prince George
Mark Strahl – Chilliwack – Fraser Canyon
Kerry Lynne Findlay – Delta – Richmond East MP
Nina Grewal – Fleetwood – Port Kells
Cathy McLeod – Kamloops – Thompson – Cariboo
Ron Cannan – Kelowna – Lake Country
David Wilks – Kootenay – Columbia
Mark Warawa – Langley
James Lunney – Nanaimo – Alberni
Andrew Saxton – North Vancouver
Dan Albas – Okanagan – Coquihalla
Colin Mayes – Okanagan – Shuswap
Randy Kamp – Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge – Mission
James Moore – Port Moody – Westwood – Port Coquitlam
Bob Zimmer – Prince George – Peace River
Alice Wong – Richmond
Russ Hiebert – South Surrey – White Rock – Cloverdale
John Duncan – Vancouver Island North
Wai Young – Vancouver South
John Weston – West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country

Otto Langer is a highly respected fisheries expert who had a long distinguished career with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and got fed up with the politicization of the DFO. He was hardly alone – back in the early 90s at the time of the Kemano II fight, there were a number of DFO officers who left DFO by early retirement, being shuffled elsewhere, denied a deserved promotion, etc. One of them, Dr. Gordon Hartman (who like Otto Langer is an honoured contributor with the Common Sense Canadian) during the Kemano II scrap, along with several of his colleagues, gave those in the trenches the ammunition they needed. Alcan called them the “dissident scientists”, a sobriquet they wore with pride.
That time was when the reigning Tories, Mulroney the PM and Thomas Siddon Minister of Fisheries refused to hold public hearings mandated by statute, ignored a condemnatory report by DFO scientists, and gave the Alcan project the go-ahead. The DFO has never been the same since and let me give you a glaring example: the DFO is mandated to protect our Pacific Salmon and at the same time is mandated to shill for fish farms!
Mr. Langer has received and made public the news that under the Budget Omnibus Bill, the Fisheries Act will no longer protect fish habitat! You can read the statement from Langer that touched off this controversy here. Not only are they putting fish habitat in the hands of the pipeline builders and other despoilers of fish habitat, they are trying to slip this through in an omnibus bill to avoid a full debate.
These are the same bastards that have already privately approved the Enbridge pipeline by super tankers down our coast through the most perilous passage in the world.
No, it’s true that the policy has not yet been approved, but every utterance by Minister Joe Oliver and the Prime Minister has made it clear that they regard the Federal-Provincial Environmental Assessment process as a waste of time and that they should get done with it as soon as possible. They know that the BC government won’t raise a finger because the Clark government is grovelling and ass-kissing through the Prime Minister’s office over the $1.6 billion we owe the feds over the bungled HST mess.

The Federal government also supports the Independent Power Producers destruction of our rivers with amendments to the Navigable Waters Act and, yes, with money. West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country voters ought to ask their MP John Weston why he gave a nice bit of change to Plutonic Power (General Electric in drag) to help them ruin our rivers.
And, of course, the federal government supports the fish farms that are the ruination of our Pacific Salmon, the very soul of the province.
Read those names, ladies and gentlemen, and note that they, supposedly fellow citizens of BC, will destroy fish habitat, approve a ruinous pipeline by Enbridge through the Rockies, the Coast Range and the Great Bear Rain Forest, will fully support Oil tankers down the Inner Passage while increasing Tanker traffic through Vancouver Harbour, help big business ruin our rivers (made nice and easy with protection of habitat gone) and, like the barker in the amusement park, shill for giant Norwegian companies trashing our salmon with their fish farms.
There they are folks – the men and women you sent to Ottawa to look after our affairs.
Postscript – please go to our website and check out our list of contributors.

NDP Fisheries Critic Fin Donnelly

NDP Fisheries Critic Takes Harper Government to Task Over Leaked Changes to Fisheries Act


Federal NDP Fisheries Critic Fin Donnelly took the Harper Government to task in Question Period earlier today over its plan to slip significant changes to the Fisheries Act into its omnibus bill. The changes – leaked yesterday to retired senior DFO scientist and manager Otto Langer – would water down key habitat protections contained in section 35 of the Act.

Donnelly raised the matter in Ottawa today, stating, “It appears the Conservatives are planning to bury sweeping changes to the Fisheries Act in the upcoming budget. The Minister uses the word ‘modernize’. But removing habitat protection from the Fisheries Act will set Canada back decades. The Minister must come clean. Is the Minister planning to change Section 35 of the Fisheries Act in the next budget? Is the plan to eliminate the protection of fish habitat in Canada and effectively gut the law? Yes or no?”

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield responded, “Of course, there’s been absolutely no decision made with regard to this issue. I’ll note that Canada is blessed with an abundant array of natural resources, of which we should be proud and which we take seriously and responsibly to conserve and protect.”

In a statement published earlier today by The Common Sense Canadian, veteran fisheries scientist Otto Langer – who first raised alarm bells over the proposed changes – explained:

I have just been leaked a confidential copy of proposed changes to the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act as directed by the political levels within the Harper Government. The government is totally re-writing the habitat protection provisions of Section 35(1) so as to remove habitat protection out of the Fisheries Act. This is a serious situation and will put Canada back to where we were in the pre 1976 period where Canada had no laws to protect fish habitat and no way to monitor the great industrial expansion that occurred in Canada with the consequential loss of major fish habitat all across Canada.

The amendments to section 35 revolve around two key policy changes. The first seeks to divide fish into two separate classes – those which are “important” and deserving of protection and those which are not. The new act would read, “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity, other than fishing, that results in an adverse effect on a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value.(emphasis added).

Mr. Langer expressed his concerns about this important change: “What is a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value? If is has no economic value, can it now be needlessly destroyed? This newly drafted provision is not intended to protect fish habitat in any manner whatsoever.”

The second key change is the removal of the word habitat from this section of the Act altogether. Mr. Langer notes, “The lack of mention of ‘habitat’ in the proposed draft law and the number of subjective and ambiguous words inserted into this major amendment will make any enforcement of this new law very difficult.

Fisheries Critic Donnelly is concerned these changes are designed to clear the way for industrial projects favoured the Harper Government. In a press release following the above exchange in the House, he stated, “The Conservative government is systematically dismantling environmental protection and regulation. By eliminating provisions to protect fish habitat, they can push through their agenda of pipelines, oil super tankers, mega mines and other projects that harm the environment.”

The issue has attracted significant attention in the media and environmental community today, adding yet another controversy to the Harper Government’s omnibus bill.


Veteran Fisheries Scientist Warns Harper Government Watering Down Habitat Protections in Omnibus Bill


To date the Harper government has shown little regard for the protection of the environment and over the past few years has supervised the almost total elimination of enforcement of the habitat  protection and the pollution provisions of the Canada Fisheries Act (Sections 35 and 36 respectively). During the Cohen Inquiry in 2011 data was presented to show that pollution and habitat violation investigations have been greatly reduced and convictions of violations in BC and indeed throughout Canada is now almost non-existent (see attachment).

The Fisheries Act of Canada was put in place in 1868 and is one of the oldest and most tested pieces of environmental legislation in the world. In 1975 many people worked hard to get a proper section added to the Act to protect fish habitat in Canada. Section 35 (habitat protection) was passed by Parliament in 1976 and has been extensively used across Canada over the past 36 years. In B.C., the Federal and BC governments largely quit enforcing  the pollution and habitat sections of the Act in favor of allowing industry to self govern their own environmental project’s ‘needs’ and monitor their own self compliance. This has proven to be a disaster wherever it has been attempted elsewhere in the World.
I have just been leaked a confidential copy of proposed changes to the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act as directed by the political levels within the Harper Government. The government is totally re-writing the habitat protection provisions of Section 35(1) so as to remove habitat protection out of the Fisheries Act. This is a serious situation and will put Canada back to where we were in the pre 1976 period where Canada had no laws to protect fish habitat and no way to monitor the great industrial expansion that occurred in Canada with the consequential loss of major fish habitat all across Canada.

Fish habitat includes the lakes, rivers and oceans and their water flows, life processes, the banks and the riparian vegetation along a water way, marshes, gravel beds and the diversity of habitat that allow a rich and diverse population of life to live in our waterways that supports a large economic, cultural and recreational fishery. Also this habitat produces healthy and robust populations of fish that are essential to the feeding and maintaining the health of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems e.g. the bears, eagles, otters, grebes, herons, etc.

Section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act now states:

35(1) No person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

(2) No person contravenes subsection (1) by causing the alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat by an means or under any conditions authorized by the Minister or under the regulations made by the Governor in Counsel under this Act

The proposed new subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act is as follows:

35(1) No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity, other than fishing, that results in an adverse effect on a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value.

(2) No person contravenes subsection (1) if

(a) the adverse effect is authorized by the Minister and is produced in accordance with the conditions established by the Minister;

(b) the adverse effect is authorized by a person prescribed by the regulations and is produced in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the regulations;

(c) the work, undertaking or activity is carried on in accordance with the conditions set out in the regulations or with any other authorization issued under this Act;

(d) the work, undertaking or activity is carried on in, on, over, under, through or across any Canadian fisheries waters, and

(i) the work, undertaking or activity falls within a class of works, undertakings or activities, or the Canadian fisheries waters fall within a class of Canadian fisheries waters, established by regulation, and

(ii) the work, undertaking or activity is carried on in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the regulations.

The existing effective and essential piece of legislation is to be changed to apparently just protect fish – something that the Act already does.  The lack of mention of ‘habitat’ in the proposed draft law and the number of subjective and ambiguous words inserted into this major amendment will make any enforcement of this new law very difficult. For instance what is a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value? If is has no economic value, can it now be needlessly destroyed? This newly drafted provision is not intended to protect fish habitat in any manner whatsoever. To support the habitat provisions in the Act, in 1986 DFO developed the National Habitat Policy with it’s central theme of ‘no net loss’ and it was once heralded as one of Canada’s first policies promoting sustainable development. Will that now also be withdrawn?

Also the above drafted section is enabling the making of regulations and, as with CEAA, the government may pass many regulations that restrict the intent of that section of the Act. That is double jeopardy. First the Canadian government amends the legislation to eliminate the protection of fish habitat and then it may undermine that new questionable fish protection legislation by allowing the passing of regulations that will create loopholes in what is left in the Act.

DFO used to hand out pencils and pens with the slogan embossed on their sides: No Habitat – No Fish. The Prime Minster and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans must realize that the Government has not replaced nature and has not changed the ecological and natural laws that create habitat and maintain ecological functioning in our essential life supporting aquatic ecosystems. They cannot replace living forms of life and their habitats and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Why at this key time in our history of ongoing industrial development pressures on our rivers, lakes and oceans, do we turn away from responsible aquatic habitat protection responsibilities? Where is the ethic and moral responsibility for our children and future generations and those that cannot be heard or cannot vote   – our fish and wildlife resources?

This proposed move by the Harper government is a travesty for our fishery resources and the health of the entire ecosystem and it ignores the needs of our future generations. It is little less than another attack on the biological systems that allow life to exist on this planet. To make matters worse, the political level has decided to not consult with DFO staff or the public on these proposed changes. The Harper government will attempt to sneak this neutering of the Fisheries Act through Parliament within the next two weeks by tacking it on to the end of the up coming Budget Omnibus Bill.

This is disgraceful and the movers of this legislative change are urged  to reconsider their planned reckless and irresponsible actions. All sport fish groups, fishermen, First Nations, ENGOs and the public must say enough is enough and oppose what Mr. Harper is planning to do.

Biography of Otto E. Langer (BSc(Zool) MSc):

Worked for DFO and DOE for 32 years in habitat and water quality protection issues. Helped organize BC Assoc. of Prof. Biologists and was President of the group. Qualified as an expert witness on over 100 pollution and habitat destruction cases in Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Published and directed many studies relating to the protection status of BC habitats. Author of the red, yellow and green habitat color zoning system that is used to protect the Fraser River Estuary.  Promoted the inclusion of habitat protection provisions into the Fisheries Act in 1975.

Awarded the BC Government Silver Metal for urban stream riparian protection in 2000; BCWF BC Conservationist of the Year 2009; Co-recipient of BC Best Regional Book Prize 2005 – Stain Upon the Sea – a book dedicated to exposing the salmon farm industry in BC. Awarded the CWF Roland Michener Canadian Conservationist of the Year Award for 2010. Left government in 2001 and joined the David Suzuki Foundation (2001 to 2005) and formed their Marine Conservation Program. Has been retired for past 7 years and does volunteer work for many conservation causes including VAPOR (no jet fuel tankers in the Fraser River) , Fraser River Gravel Stewardship Committee (Chilliwack), oil and oil sands issues, London UK based MSC (2001-2010), BC Marine Conservation Caucus and had legal standing at the Cohen Inquiry on declining Fraser River sockeye stocks.   


Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Private River Power Projects Killing Fish


Read this exclusive story from the Vancouver Sun on documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee that demonstrate private river power projects are killing fish. (Match 10, 2012)

The Mamquam River pours cold and fresh off the Coast Mountains, forming pools and canyons and chutes of white water on its way to the Squamish River and Howe Sound.

It was a natural place for federal fisheries biologists to assemble on an August 2010 weekend for swift-water safety training. Like the river itself, however, their exercise took an expected turn.

Rather than watch the Mamquam flow predictably to the sea, the biologists were dismayed to witness the water levels fluctuate wildly — and with dire consequences.

Young steelhead were dying, stranded without water.

The culprit? The Capital Power run-of-river hydro plant, located just upstream.

The independent power industry bills itself as green, sustainable and environmentally responsible.

But more than 3,000 pages of documents obtained separately by The Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee through freedom of information requests show water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects are killing fish — and the problem is not isolated.

While independent power producers insist their sector remains the cleanest energy option, the documents bolster environmentalists’ long-standing concerns about the industry.

“I’m seeing significant environmental problems,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee. “And that runs completely counter to what the companies are saying, which is essentially, ‘Trust us with your wild rivers and there won’t be any problems.’ ”

The documents detail repeated short-term fluctuations in water flows, resulting in the stranding and killing of juvenile fish downstream of two plants, Capital Power on the lower Mamquam and Innergex on Ashlu Creek, another tributary of the Squamish.

Read more:


Tell DFO to Save Kokish River Steelhead from Proposed Private Power Project


These opening words from Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee which cry out (in my mind at any rate for I don’t speak for the W.C. which certainly doesn’t need my help) for the highest manifestation of protest including civil disobedience:

Tucked away in the wild of northern Vancouver Island, the Kokish River is a treasure for fishers and wilderness lovers alike.

The Kokish River, located 15 km east of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, is threatened by a proposed 45 megawatt hydropower project. The river is renowned for its high fish values including endangered summer and winter runs of steelhead.

Thus has begun yet another rape of a river without any public process at all. The deal requires approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is why the Wilderness Committee is calling on citizens to write to them and demand they reject this project that would unquestionably damage important fish habitat.
The proposal is to divert the river through 9 kms of pipe through the generators then back into the river. This river has 2 steelhead runs and all 5 species of Pacific salmon.
Back to Ms. Barlee:
Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and the Namgis First Nation, has applied to dam and divert the 11 km river into a 9 km pipe. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) considers the Kokish to be a high-value river with a sensitive fish population.

The Kokish is a fish-rich river. In addition to the steelhead populations, it is home to five species of wild salmon, coastal cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden.
This is an outrage and it must be stopped.
Let’s remind ourselves what this means.

In the environmental sense, the river will no longer be the home and breeding point for the salmon and trout which rely upon this river. How the hell can you expect anything else to happen? It is indeed “common sense”!

What also happens is the slow death of the river and its ecology which depend upon the fish in the river for its own survival.

On the fiscal side, here is yet another nail in the BC Hydro coffin. It will be required to take this power during the spring run-off when BC Hydro doesn’t need the power, at double+ what it’s worth in the market or use it at many times over what BC Hydro can make for themselves!
Adrian Dix now has a right, and indeed a duty, to speak out loudly and clearly that he and his party condemn this project and that if elected, he will cancel this deal forthwith.
As for the premier and her outfit – who have already approved the project without any public consultation – this demonstrates, as if it were needed, her appalling ignorance of environmental and, indeed, fiscal matters. It also indicates the premier’s lack of courage – she evidently wants no controversial matters to spoil her day, assuming that if she just sticks to photo opportunities, her admitted good looks will sway the voters.

Now she gives us all the finger as she hands over yet another of our rivers to her corporate supporters. (I suppose we should be comforted in the knowledge that the Vancouver Board of Trade always gives her a standing ovation.)

This government has squandered at least 3 billion dollars, tripled our provincial debt and is dumb enough to cost the province $35 million dollars by refusing that sum from Telus who offered that if the dome was called Telus Field.

It has not just shown no interest in the environment, it has encouraged those who would pillage it for profit, to fill their boots.
It has driven BC Hydro into what would be bankruptcy in the private sector and now strikes yet another blow to it by adding the Kokish to the ecological disasters which have been the hallmark of the Campbell/Clark government.
More than fifty organizations and individuals – including NHL star Willie Mitchell and yours truly – have signed onto the Wilderness Committee’s letter calling for DFO to reject the project. They clearly believe that if the public adds its voice to the chorus, there is a real opportunity to make DFO do the right thing.


Veteran North Coast Fisherman Warns of Serious Navigational Risks to Supertankers


As a fisherman who has worked his whole life on the coast of BC, I have many concerns about oil tankers leaving Kitamaat (proper spelling double “a” and it means ‘people of the snow’).

All of the discussions, I have heard, have been about concerns regarding pipeline ruptures and what can happen on the land route. My concern is what will happen if there is a loaded oil tanker heading to sea and it  hits a reef or shore or breaks up causing another Exxon Valdez.

Our family has a long history in the area. My father started fishing there in the 30’s and in 1949, at the age of 13, I went out on his seine boat. In 1957 I became a Captain of a  seiner and I fished the area for over 50 years, usually from 5 -20 weeks per year. At present my son operates our family’s seiner and continues to fish this area. Our combined  family’s presence in this area is over 80 years.

I have been hired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to participate in stock assessments for salmon and herring. In 1968 we were hired by Shell Oil Company to assist in the positioning of Sedco’s drill rig in Hecate Straits.

We have spent so much time in Fisheries and Oceans Canada designated area 6 that lifelong friends – the late Alan Hall of Kitamaat and Johnny Clifton of Hartley Bay – were made. I have seen the waterfall at Butedale frozen solid, bone dry and running so hard you could not tie up your boat.

With our family’s 80 plus years of fishing in the Whale Channel area we have firsthand knowledge of tides, weather, types of fish and bird life. The area from Kitamaat to Hecate Straits is designated Area 6, by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and is the most consistent salmon producing region in British Columbia with runs in the odd and even years.
In Area 6 there is:

  1. Within the Central coast area 128 salmon bearing streams
  2. Kitasu Bay to McInnes Island is a major herring spawning  ground
  3. All 5 species of salmon, herring, crab, mussels, clams, abalone, prawns, eulachons, pilchards, hake, geoduck, mackerel, halibut cod, pollock, otters, eagles and many birds, plus whales and porpoises
  4. Tides that fluctuate over 20 feet causing currents of up to 5 knots
  5. Being a region of heavy snow and glaciers there are very strong freshets from May to the end of July
  6. The outflow winds from Douglas Channel can be extreme during summer and winter
  7. Weather in Hecate Straits –  because of strong complex currents, waves have been recorded up to 30 metres. The highest wind gusts recorded for November, December, January, February and March is 180 -190-plus km per hour.

If a ship enters Laredo Channel from Hecate Straits at McInnes Island the tanker would have Lenard Shoal and Moody Bank at the bottom of Aristazabl Island. On the east side of Aristazabl Island there are 2 very  dangerous rocks known as Wilson and Moorhouse. Campania Sound is also a very treacherous body of water from Dupont Island to Hecate Straits.

There are many rocks and to name a few, Bortwick, Cort, Ness, Evans, Cliff and Janion also Yares Shoal. This area is a minefield of reefs. These rocks are spread out between Rennison Island, Banks Island and Campania Island. This route would be extremely dangerous to tanker traffic. Using the Otter Pass route, Nepean rock becomes a very prominent problem for ships’ travel.

Should a major oil spill occur I feel an oil boom would not be able to contain it because of the velocity of the current in this area and the oil could travel 20-50 miles in one 6 hour tide. This area is not the Mediterranean or a lagoon.
If a spill occurred in Laredo Channel the herring spawning area at Kitasu Bay to Price Island could be totally destroyed, possibly forever. The eel grass which the herring need to spawn on could be wiped out. Some years over 10,000 tons of herring spawn in this area.
A spill at freshet time would be the  most devastating. Due to the differences of its viscosity, salt water is heavier and would be lower and the fresh water being lighter, becomes a shallow layer at the surface. The juvenile salmon live in this fresh water layer as they  migrate to sea. The juvenile salmon jump like raindrops and if they were migrating in a spill area the oil could wipe out an entire run. Some streams could become barren of salmon.
I have tried to point out, so people know, the dangers of the entire marine area and what could happen if there is ever a spill. I have spent my entire life around Princess Royal Island and the vicinity.  I personally am totally opposed to the Kitamaat  terminal for oil tankers.

John Brajcich and his family have been commercial fishermen on BC’s north and central coast – where oil supertankers would pass – for some eighty years.


Veteran Fish Scientist Highlights Key Risks from Enbridge Pipelines


Dr. Gordon Hartman is a retired senior biologist and manager for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with a deep knowledge of the region affected by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Here he provides an essential summary of the threats from the pipeline to fish populations as well as the very real geological concerns surrounding the project.


There are very serious and reasonable concerns about the risk of tanker traffic accidents as the ‘oil’ starts its 150+ km tanker journey from near Kitimat, through the narrow Douglas Channel to the open ocean. A report by Anthony Swift and four other authors presents a ‘must read’ review, “Pipeline and Tanker Trouble: The Impact to British Columbia’s Communities, Rivers, and Pacific Coastline from Tar sands Oil Transport”.

The following short article examines three of the specific risks that exist in the 1,170 km double pipeline before the oil ever gets to the tankers. In the report by Anthony Swift and others, 11 ‘special places at risk’ are listed.  

In the proposed ‘double line’ system up to 525,000 barrels/day, of bitumen and a diluting condensate, are to be pumped ‘westward’ in a 91 cm pile line. Diluting condensate, from off shore, is to be pumped ‘eastward’ at a rate of up to 193,000 barrels/day (Bustard and Miles 2011). A major failure, caused by an event such as a landslide, would release materials from both lines.

The following article is based, to a large degree, on the articles that are listed at the end. Such a list is clearly not comprehensive. Regardless of that, because they are based on work done by people with decades of competent professional experience, it is clear that there are serious risks along the line before the oil ever reaches the tankers. Pipeline spills into rivers in Northwest B.C. mountains: ‘not if, but when’.

Geological  Concerns

The proposed corridor crosses three different physiographic units, each of which presents different hazards to a pipeline. “The geology and geomorphology of west central B.C is complex and destructive landslides are common.  Various landslide types have occurred along the proposed pipeline corridor within the defined physiographic units:” (Schwab 2011). The types of landslide and the risks are discussed in this paper.

There are three things that are important to note:                                                                            

  1. There are several kinds of slope failures that may affect land uses below them
  2. Some of these landslides originate far upslope, travel several km, and become large and destructive. Remedial measures are not easy to plan for
  3. Most of the dated and large landslides are associated with wet, warm, weather. Climate change patterns suggest conditions will become warmer and wetter.                                                                                                                                 

These points barely touch on the details of Schwab’s report. However, they should indicate, even for starters, that much of the approximately 220 km western end of this proposed corridor is a risky and problematic route in which to build large, double, high volume oil pipelines.

Risks to a Population of Large, Biologically Distinct, Rainbow Trout

A paper by Hagen (2011) presents special concern about risks to the habitat of a race of large and unique Rainbow trout. The proposed route crosses the upper reaches of the Sutherland River, at the eastern end of Babine Lake. This river supports a population of large, biologically distinct Rainbow trout.These fish are similar to the world famous Gerrard Rainbow trout from Kootenay Lake.

The proposed pipeline route ‘traverses through the upper portion of the core spawning and rearing habitats’ of the Sutherland River trout. About 95% of the area below the pipeline crossing of the Sutherland River has been rated by the Provincial Protected Areas Team as having ‘very high conservation values’.       

The remoteness, complex habitat, and very limited access of the drainage make the Sutherland River a very difficult area to reach if a pipeline break and spill were to occur at its upper end.

This population of fish contributes, in a major way, to the economically and socially valuable trout fishery of Babine Lake. Furthermore, no other population of large, piscivorous, Rainbow trout has been identified in Babine Lake.

Risks to a High Production Section of the Morice River

Some of the most serious risks to fish habitat and populations, along the route, occur in a 71 km section of the pipeline traversing areas adjacent to the upper reaches of the Morice River and Gosnell Creek. In  a 34 km section of the river (Reach 2 in the report), the pipeline is located in, or adjacent to, the floodplain with its “numerous active secondary channels, log jams and wetlands that comprise the core spawning and rearing habitat for Morice River fish populations.” (Bustard and Miles 2011).       

In a near hundred page report Bustard and Miles provide in-depth information on the biology and numbers of summer run Steelhead and Chinook, Coho, Sockeye and Pink salmon that use this critical section of the river.  Their report examines the impacts of an oil spill within this section of river.  It considers downstream impacts in the Morice and Bulkley rivers.

In order to provide a context for comparisons they review three past oil spills; Exxon Valdez, Pine River, and Kalamazoo River. They describe cleanup effectiveness of these spills.

Fish Populations

The section of river upstream from Moricetown (near Smithers) supports an important part of the salmon populations of the Skeena River system. The mean annual escapements of Coho salmon, 1997 – 2010, upstream from Moricetown, are 35,000. From 30 to 40 % of these fish spawn within Reach 2 of the Morice River. The complex river habitat in Reach 2 is ideal for Coho salmon juvenile rearing.

The Morice-Nanika Sockeye stock, 8,000 to 10,000 fish, is the largest in the Bulkley system. Reach 2 is the migration corridor for these fish.

The Morice River is the most important Chinook salmon river in the Skeena watershed. Spawning populations have averages slightly over 10,000 during the last decade. Between 35 and 45% of the young Chinook salmon rearing  between Morice Lake and Smithers occur in Reach 2.

The Morice River, upstream from Moricetown,  supports the largest Steelhead run in the Skeena River system – average of 19,000 fish per year. Steelhead juveniles rear, preferably, in the log jam habitat of Reach 2.

Other fish species in the Morice River system include Bull trout, Mountain whitefish, Prickly sculpins and Pacific lamprey. These species may not be rated so highly for commercial or recreational use, however, they are important parts of the river system.

Oil Spill Impacts

A pipeline break along the Morice River would spread hydrocarbons through Reach 2 could contaminate a large number of log jams – the habitat of juvenile salmonids winter and summer. There are an estimated 1,000 log jams in this reach. Within this approximately 34 km of braided river habitat there is an estimated 370 km of river shoreline. The degree of ‘habitat oiling’ would depend on river level. However, it is evident that a spill above, or in upper Reach 2 would have an immediate toxic impact on fish spawning and rearing in this section.

As the oil and diluting component mix moved downstream, progressively more of the diluting component would evaporate. With this evaporation, the increasingly concentrated bitumen would sink and become incorporated in the streambed leading to long term impacts, especially for salmon egg development.

In Reach 2, eggs or alevins are present in the gravels year- around. Juvenile Chinook, Coho  and Steelhead are also in this reach every month of the year. The ‘oiling’ and cleanup of this section of the river would totally alter the channel structure and log jam habitat for such fish. It could not be re-built as it was before a spill.

Where the bitumen became ‘imbedded’ along the many km of river habitat, adequate removal would be nearly impossible. Below a spill in Reach 2, the oil “could very quickly reach downstream habitats in the lower Morice and Bulkley rivers, and potentially the Skeena River.” (Bustard and Miles 2011).  The average velocity of the Morice River between May and November is at least 1 m/sec. – too fast for containment booms.  A spill in Reach 2 of the Morice River would take 12 hours to reach a point near Smithers.

Bustard and Miles conclude by describing the array of difficulties in effectively capturing and cleaning up spilled oil in Reach 2. The location is remote, access is poor, the river is large and fast, the channel is large and complex, and the ‘enormous’ volume of woody debris would limit boat access to many reach sections. To the date of their writing, the proponent has not provided the information needed to show that an oil spill adjacent to Reach 2 could be effectively controlled or remediated.

There are other sections of the pipeline along which there are other concerns. The cumulative risks and impacts of pipeline breaks along with the potential for tanker accidents make the whole project one of folly, risk and ecological disaster. Surely, we can do better.

G.F. Hartman, February, 2012
References and reading

Bustard, D. and M. Miles. 2011. Potential effects of an oil pipeline rupture on Reach 2 of the Morice River. A submission to the Joint Review Panel: Enbridge Northern Gateway project. 100 p.

Hagen, J. 2011. Rainbow Trout of the Sutherland River in the Babine Lake Watershed, British Columbia, and Risks Associate with the Northern Gateway Pipeline. A Submission to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel. 15 p.

Levy, D. 2009. Pipelines and salmon in Northern British Columbia. Prepared for the Pembina Institute. 46 p.

Schwab, J.  2011. Hillslope and Fluvial Processes Along the Proposed Pipeline Corridor, Burns Lake to Kitimat, West  Central British Columbia. Prepared for Bulkley Valley Centre for Natural Resources Research and Management. 27p.

Skeena Wild. Enbridge. 2011? Project Overview.

Swift, A., N. Lemphers and three co-authors. 2011.  Pipeline and Tanker Trouble: The Impact to British Columbia’s Communities, Rivers, and the Pacific Coastline from Tar sands Oil Transport.  30 p.