Photo: Spills happen - it's not worth the risk

Reflections from a ferry: Credit: Jeffery Young

By Jay Ritchlin, Director of Marine & Freshwater

By now we've all seen the ghastly images of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil everywhere. Frustrated fishermen wondering what will happen next.

These recent events have made me wonder what a similar disaster could do a little closer to my home, along British Columbia's coastline. Often called Canada's Galapagos of the North, the B.C. coastline is one of Mother Nature's hotspots. The rich life on and below the surface is incredible.

On my ferry-ride home from work the other day, I marvelled at the massive pod of pacific white-sided dolphins — at least 30 of them, maybe more — gliding past the boat on either side, flashing their orca-like markings as they wake-jumped past the stern. Watching these elegant marine mammals intermingle with the thousands of shore birds suggests that herring, and other tasty fish, have returned in high numbers. This is a good sign. Another good sign came last week when a young grey whale stirred up everyone's excitement with a rare visit through Vancouver's False Creek.

But the reasons that make the coast and its waters so amazing, are the very same reasons that make it so vulnerable to an oil spill. The nutrient rich currents between the mainland, Vancouver Island, and Haida Gwaii, act like a washing machine. Any oil spill would be disbursed quickly, with the potential to hit all three coasts. These coasts are some of B.C.'s most ecologically and economic important areas.

Governor Schwarzenegger said it best recently [insert the Gubernator's Terminator accent]: "The money is not worth the risk."

Fortunately, B.C. has a moratorium on offshore drilling and exploration. But there's increasing talk of dismantling this legal pause. Prime Minister Harper and Premier Campbell must keep Canada's west coast moratorium on oil-related activity in place to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring here.

As we watch clean-up crews scramble to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, it's apparent that technology and band-aid approaches are failing. The only solution to an oil spill of this magnitude is through prevention and foresight. Trust me, losing B.C.'s natural assets to a similar catastrophe is just not worth the risk.

May 12, 2010

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May 18, 2010
6:00 PM

Spills were not supposed to happen! BP apparently did not do the required environmental assessment! We will only see more spills in the future as fossil fuel reserves decrease, there will be pressure to increase offshore production. What we are doing for the environment is not working. More fundamental changes are needed. The following strategy does provide for this:

A Structural Strategy for Global Warming, Resource Conservation, Toxic Contaminants, and the Environment

You can see individual components of the strategy at: Climate Change, GHG, Carbon Emission Reduction—Toxic Chemicals & Contaminants—Green Packaging, Recycling Markets, & Reuse—Population Growth—Non-Renewable Resources—Green Transportation: Hybrid, Electric, and Hydrogen Vehicles—Renewable Energy & Resource Management

May 29, 2010
6:53 PM

Yes, we need to make the politicians aware that off-shore drilling is not an option. Can you let me know where I should send my emails or letters of protest so that our voices are heard. I am at present organizing an email campaign to protest off-shore drilling and the criminal negligence involved in permitting BP to engage in business practices that endanger so many communities and such vast tracts of the environment. Thank you.

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