The supertankers that would service Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline would cross "Whale Passage", so named because humpback whales have been returning to it year after year for longer than science records. Whale Passage in Douglas Channel is a rich feeding ground for humpbacks that is unequalled on the North Coast.
Northern Gateway, by adding up to 400 supertanker trips per year to this quiet stretch of water, would increase the greatest risk factors for the whales:
- being struck by a ship
- hydrocarbon pollution
- echolocation problems from noise pollution
- pollution of food sources
Humpbacks are listed as a "Species of Concern" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. If we don't protect their habitat, they could slide to 'threatened' or 'endangered'.
It is intolerable that the recovery strategy for these animals has been delayed because of the Enbridge proposal. Take action today: Urge the Canadian government to protect critical habitat for humpbacks.
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
I am writing to urge your government to take immediate action to protect those portions of Douglas Channel, British Columbia, that have been identified by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as critical habitat for the humpback whale.
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B.C.'s humpback whales are currently listed as a species of "special concern" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Humpbacks did not receive any form of protection until 1966 after being hunted to the brink of extinction by commercial whalers by the early 1900s. Since that time, it is assumed that they are making a slow recovery, with population growth over recent decades somewhere in the range of four to six percent each year. Still, the number of North Pacific humpback whales remains at only about half of their estimated population at the height of commercial whaling.
These whales are considered to be of "special concern" because they are at risk of sliding into the "threatened" or "endangered" category if measures are not taken to protect them from significant risks. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker proposal was specifically cited by COSEWIC as a major threat to the whales: "[it] would result in tankers going directly through one of the four areas proposed by DFO as critical habitat for humpback whales." The tanker routes also present an increased risk of death or injury from vessel strikes and noise pollution, and the COSEWIC report states they would pose an increased risk of hydrocarbon pollution.
Enbridge's proposal to add some 400 supertanker trips each year poses an unacceptable additional risk of vessel strikes to this recovering population. Because these whales vocalize (in part) at very low frequencies, they are most likely to be disturbed by the low-frequency noise pollution from commercial vessels. Douglas Channel is currently considered to be a relatively quiet stretch of water. However, the addition of supertankers to the route will vastly increase noise levels in the water and, in the narrow confines of the channel, may echo and travel over long distances. Noise of this nature can disrupt the feeding patterns of the whales and inhibit communication essential to the remarkable co-operative feeding behaviours that draw tourists to view them.
Although they occupy a very large expanse of the ocean, traveling as far away as Mexico, Hawaii or Japan during the winter, humpbacks also display a remarkable loyalty to particular feeding grounds. They thrive on the zooplankton and small schooling fish that are most abundant in B.C.'s cold, productive northern inlets. The mainland channels around Gil and Gribbell Islands, including Campania Sound and Whale, Squally and Ursula Channels are just such habitat. Humpbacks have returned here every year for as long as anyone can recall.
It is intolerable to me that the recovery strategy for these animals has been delayed as a result of the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal. The proposal is clearly contrary to the requirements of the whales and I ask that you designate the above-mentioned portions of Douglas Channel as critical habitat immediately.