In the aftermath of the largest oil spill in history at BP’s Deepwater Horizon, and the subsequent bombardment of the Gulf of Mexico with carcinogenic chemicals to make the oil less visible to television viewers, San Juan County, WA is reviewing its policies toward the use of toxic chemical dispersants.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun, Haro Strait is at the heart of the feeding grounds for 78 members of the southern-resident killer-whale pods. Maps illustrating the dispersion of oil from a tanker incident in Haro Strait (near Victoria) shows that Orca whales are “most likely to suffer the effects of ingestion, inhalation and direct contact with diluted bitumen, a mix of oil and other chemicals used to aid in its transport.”
In the first few days after a spill, many of the affected animals that breathe at the water’s surface lose consciousness and drown, while others succumb later from eating contaminated prey. Between 22 and 80 per cent of the southern residents’ critical habitat would be affected by such a spill.
The bunker fuel spill from a ship in Vancouver’s English Bay last week was a good test for the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada. After closing the Vancouver-based Environmental Emergencies office in 2012, and laying off staff specifically trained to deal with oil spills, Ottawa added insult to injury by closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station in 2013. This, says the former station commander, resulted in a six-hour delay in response time to the English Bay oil spill. When the City of Vancouver petitioned the National Energy Board for information about Kinder Morgan’s emergency response plan — should its proposed seven-fold increase in Tar Sands shipping out of Vancouver come to pass — the feds told local government to take a hike.