Oil spills pose un­ac­cept­able threats to marine life

Sherbrooke Record - - EDITORIAL -

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau says oil pipe­lines have no place in B.C.’S Great Bear Rain­for­est. Op­po­nents of the ap­proved Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line ex­pan­sion to the West Coast and the can­celled En­ergy East pipe­line to the East Coast ar­gue pipe­lines and tankers don’t be­long in any coastal ar­eas. Re­search led by the Rain­coast Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion con­firms the threat to marine mam­mals in B.C. wa­ters from a seven-fold in­crease in tanker traf­fic is con­sid­er­able.

Af­ter ex­am­in­ing po­ten­tial im­pacts of a 15,000-cu­bic-me­tre oil spill in B.C. wa­ters on 21 marine mam­mals, re­searchers con­cluded most in­di­vid­u­als would be at risk and a few lo­cal pop­u­la­tions wouldn’t sur­vive. Baleen whales, for ex­am­ple, are highly sus­cep­ti­ble to in­gest­ing oil be­cause they breathe through blow­holes, fil­ter and eat food from the ocean sur­face and rely on in­ver­te­brate prey. Oil residue can stick to the baleen, re­strict­ing the amount of food they con­sume.

Res­i­dent and tran­sient killer whales, sea ot­ters and Steller sea lions were most likely to see a drop in pop­u­la­tion lev­els from an oil spill. Killer whales are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble be­cause of their small pop­u­la­tions, low re­pro­duc­tive rates, di­etary spe­cial­iza­tion, long lives and com­plex so­cial struc­ture. The 76 south­ern res­i­dent killer whales off the B.C. coast, Canada’s most en­dan­gered marine mam­mal, are par­tic­u­larly threat­ened by oil spills, as well as ship strikes and un­der­wa­ter noise that hin­ders their abil­ity to feed and com­mu­ni­cate.

If Trans Moun­tain’s Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line ex­pan­sion pro­ceeds and an oil spill oc­curs, the study es­ti­mates it would af­fect be­tween 22 and 80 per cent of these whales’ crit­i­cal Sal­ish Sea habi­tat. They al­ready face se­vere chi­nook salmon prey short­ages and other challenges. In court, op­po­nents ar­gued that adding pipe­line and tanker im­pacts to the mix could lead to their ex­tinc­tion.

Fol­low­ing the 1989 Exxon Valdez dis­as­ter in Prince Wil­liam Sound, a unique pod of north coast or­cas van­ished for­ever. Nine of the 22 whales died and re­main­ing pod mem­bers didn’t pro­duce any liv­ing off­spring.

All marine mam­mals are vul­ner­a­ble to oil spills be­cause they sur­face to breathe. If that hap­pens in a spill, oil can ad­here to their bod­ies, and they can in­hale toxic vapours and in­gest oil. Marine mam­mals ex­posed to oil spills may suf­fer dam­aged airways, con­gested lungs, stom­ach ul­cer­a­tions, eye and skin le­sions, weight loss and stunted growth. When whales and dol­phins sur­face to breathe, oil can re­strict their blow­holes and airways. When seals and ot­ters try to clean oil mat­ted on their coats, they in­gest it. They also lose heat be­cause spilled oil ru­ins their nat­u­ral in­su­la­tion, so they can die of hy­pother­mia.

Even in­di­rect ex­po­sure to small amounts of oil chem­i­cals known as polycyclic aro­matic hy­dro­car­bons can have pro­found toxic ef­fects on an­i­mals and fish, par­tic­u­larly the young. Two years af­ter the Exxon Valdez spill, mor­tal­ity rates in pink salmon eggs were 96 per cent higher than pre-spill lev­els. Re­searchers es­ti­mated that shore­line habi­tats such as mus­sel beds could take up to 30 years to re­cover fully.

Chronic oil pol­lu­tion from ships trav­el­ling off Canada's coasts kills hun­dreds of thou­sands of seabirds ev­ery year. In the late 1990s, an es­ti­mated 300,000 birds died an­nu­ally off New­found­land's coast alone.

No tech­nol­ogy will ad­e­quately clean most oil spills, es­pe­cially di­luted bi­tu­men. Un­like con­ven­tional crude, bi­tu­men can sink if spilled in wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 study by the Na­tional Academy of Sciences. It also found that cur­rent reg­u­la­tions and spill-re­sponse tech­niques can’t manage the unique behaviour and higher risks of a bi­tu­men spill. Tar balls sink to the bot­tom or hang in the wa­ter col­umn, elud­ing con­ven­tional booms used to con­tain oil spills.

An Oil Tanker Mora­to­rium Act be­fore Par­lia­ment rec­og­nizes that B.C.’S north coast ecosys­tems and lo­cal economies must be pro­tected from oil spill risks. B.C.’S new govern­ment will ar­gue in its case against the Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line that the fed­eral govern­ment failed to eval­u­ate the project's risks to the marine en­vi­ron­ment — a breach of its obli­ga­tion to con­sider the na­tional in­ter­est.

It’s cer­tainly not in the in­ter­ests of any marine mam­mal, es­pe­cially en­dan­gered ones, to add more shipping traf­fic or in­crease oil spill risks — nor is it in keep­ing with our Paris Agree­ment com­mit­ments to shift away from fos­sil fu­els. Let’s hope that the Kinder Mor­gan project

Fgoes the way of the En­ergy East pipe­line.

David Suzuki is a sci­en­tist, broad­caster, au­thor and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion. Writ­ten with con­tri­bu­tions from David Suzuki Foun­da­tion Se­nior Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Spe­cial­ist Theresa Beer.

Learn more at www.david­suzuki.org. or the past two years a lot has been said by the Que­bec English School Boards As­so­ci­a­tion, and its nine (9) mem­ber boards, con­cern­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights, mi­nor­ity rights and ed­u­ca­tion rights.

Be that as it may, the first words af­ter the ti­tle: Que­bec Ed­u­ca­tion Act are “Stu­dents' Rights - Droits De L’élève”.

There is no dis­par­ity, no dis­tinc­tion, no dif­fer­ence made be­tween French and English stu­dents. They are given equal rights un­der the law.

One of those rights deals with text­books for new pro­grams.

That said, con­sider the lat­est chap­ter re­gard­ing the English Mon­treal School Board (EMSB), the new Que­bec Sec­ondary III and IV his­tory pro­gram, and stu­dents' rights.

Since Septem­ber 2016, the EMSB has passed res­o­lu­tions that ba­si­cally called for a more cul­tur­ally and lin­guis­ti­cally ap­pro­pri­ate new sec­ondary his­tory course. The pro­gram would be (was) im­ple­mented on Au­gust 30, 2017 and the first June pro­vin­cial exam for the course would be writ­ten in June 2018. Con­se­quently, com­mis­sion­ers sug­gested:

- the new pro­gram should in­clude the his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions made by the First Na­tions, an­glo­phone and al­lo­phone com­mu­ni­ties.

- a min­i­mum of twenty per­cent (20%) of the pro­gram hon­our the di­verse lin­guis­tic and cul­tural his­tory of Que­bec and in­clude the his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions made by the afore­men­tioned com­mu­ni­ties.

- all English boards, teach­ers and stu­dents have the same in­struc­tional ma­te­ri­als / re­sources ( books, in­ter­net sites) - at the same time - as the French boards.

The EMSB asked its "sis­ter English boards" to pass sim­i­lar mo­tions and present them to the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter.

I do not know whether seven (7) English boards agreed with the EMSB'S re­quest. I do know what hap­pened at the Lester B. Pear­son School Board.

On at least five oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing the Oct. 23 Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee meet­ing, I re­quested ver­bally and in writ­ing, at reg­u­lar Coun­cil meet­ings, that the board par­tic­i­pate in this cam­paign, which would ben­e­fit our stu­dents' ed­u­ca­tion. As usual, I was dis­missed.

English boards must en­sure that not only the Ed­u­ca­tion Act is re­spected, but also English stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion rights are pro­tected.

CHRIS EUS­TACE MON­TREAL, QC

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