Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gabriola Residents Oppose Offshore Anchorage "Parking Lot"

Anchoring freighters off Gabriola Island coast will damage environment, yet no proper assessment is being done


March 15, 2016

Gabriola Island, BC – A proposal to establish five anchorages along the Northeast coast of Gabriola Island – to create an ‘overflow parking’ for cape-size freighters heading to BC ports – will cause irreparable harm to the environment, yet the only environmental study being done is of questionable value, says the group organized to oppose the anchorages.

The five anchorages are being sought by Pacific Pilotage Authority on behalf of the BC Chamber of Shipping, Port Metro Vancouver and the Nanaimo Port Authority. They are proposed for overflow parking for 300-metre vessels while they wait to load coal and other commodities at BC ports.

“Anchoring giant freighters off the coast of Gabriola Island has extreme potential for environmental disaster, but the only study being undertaken by the proponent is not a true environmental assessment,” says Franz Gigl, a spokesperson of Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages (GAFA), a grassroots groups that has grown in the past year to fight these anchorages.

Locations for a further five anchorages are also being sought elsewhere in the Southern Georgia Strait. 

In contrast to environmental assessments conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the proponent-lead study of the environmental impacts of anchoring ships in this area will not be subjected to independent scrutiny. That means this study will not have an independent expert consider whether these anchorages are really needed or whether there are less harmful and less intrusive alternatives.

As the consultant preparing the study is engaged and paid by the proponents of these anchorages, they are deciding themselves what environmental impacts are important and what mitigation measures will be adequate.

“This report is not a ‘true environmental assessment’, it is just a study where the proponents of the anchorages have determined the study’s parameters and limits, and have excluded factors that are hugely important in judging the actual environmental impact” says Gigl.

“The results are entirely foreseeable and we expect the study to ignore important factors and support the anchorages without looking at all the facts.”

These new anchorages are proposed for the full northeast coast of Gabriola Island directly in front of wetlands, spawning beaches, community parks and beaches, a provincial park, numerous walking trails and one of the most densely populated areas within the Gulf Island region.

The Northeast coast of Gabriola Island frequently experiences onshore winds of 38-60 kilometers an hour. If a single ship were to drag anchor and ground, or spill fuel while bunkering, the resulting oil spill would rapidly drift onto the coastline and destroy shore and marine ecosystems.

The anchors and anchor chains of these massive ships will scour the seabed as they swing and shift in the winds and currents, creating a virtual wasteland. The waters of the proposed anchorage corridor are on the migration route of Chinook salmon, Orca and Humpback whales. The proposed anchorages location is a prime sport fishing and recreational boating area where a major herring run takes place each year and is close to geoduck harvesting grounds and a rare glass sponge reef.

The Regional District of Nanaimo, Gabriola Island Trustees and residents, business owners, local fishers and environmentalists have all expressed opposition to these new anchorages.

For more information, visit www.gabriolaanchorrage.org.

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Media contact: Regine Eder

About GAFA

Gabriola Against Freighter Anchorages (GAFA) Society is a grassroots organization of residents and business owners formed to fight the introduction of heavy industrial activity into the pristine, recreational and residential Gulf Island areas including Gabriola Island.

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