Vancouver-A group of leading scientists have written to Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, urging him to reject the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s (VFPA) proposed Roberts Bank Terminal II (RBT2) project if the government is committed to the recovery of threatened and endangered species that rely on the Fraser River Estuary.
The letter, co-authored by 12 scientists with expertise on Chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales and the Fraser River Estuary, cite the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency’s (now the Impact Assessment Agency) report that found RBT2 will have significant adverse and cumulative effects on certain Fraser Chinook salmon populations and Southern Resident killer whales.
The letter also expresses concern for VFPA’s reliance on ‘habitat offsetting’ as a mechanism to compensate for the loss of habitat incurred to Chinook salmon. The scientists cited a study that found only 33% of previous habitat compensation projects implemented by the VFPA have achieved their intended ecological outcomes to offset adverse effects from their projects. A Canadian-wide study of fish habitat compensation projects found that it was simply not possible to compensate for some habitats.
Dr. Ken Ashley, the Director of the Rivers Institute at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, states that « the Fraser estuary is the most ecologically sensitive and threatened ecosystem in the entire Fraser River. After experiencing myriad developmental pressures for over a century, it now faces an uncertain future due to continuing threats from large developmental proposals such as RBT2″.
Considering this, and the significant adverse effects anticipated on Chinook salmon and Southern Resident killer whales, the scientists state there is a clear biological rationale for rejecting the project if their recovery is a priority for the Government of Canada.
« We evaluated the threats facing 102 species of conservation concern in the Fraser River Estuary and found that pursuing projects that further reduce the habitat for these at-risk species will only further their decline. Our research shows that species recovery requires implementing cost-effective conservation-based science that is supported by a management plan and co-governance », Dr. Tara Martin, Professor in the Forest and Conservation Science Department at the University of British Columbia.
If Minister Guilbeault does reject the project, it would demonstrate the Federal government’s stated commitment to legislation like Canada’s Species at Risk Act and directive policies under the Fisheries Act to recover species and populations. (photo VFPA)