CAW urges public to sign petition against Coast Guard radio cutbacks

The Canadian Autoworkers Union, which represents Canadian Coast Guard radio and traffic communications staff, is urging Canadians to sign an online petition against a government decision to cut service hours at 11 of 22 Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres, and close another by the end of 2012.

One of the stations affected by the service cuts, which began on February 1,  is Prince Rupert Coast Guard radio.

Logo for CAW Local 2182
CAW Local 2182

CAW President Ken Lewenza held a news conference in Ottawa today which included CAW Local 2182 President Martin Grégoire and CAW Local 2182 Pacific Region Director Allan Hughes alongside NDP Opposition Critic for Fisheries and Oceans Fin Donnelly and Deputy Critic for Fisheries and Oceans Phillip Toone.

“This government has to wake up to the fact that it’s simply not worth putting Canadian lives at risk to save a few bucks,” Lewenza was quoted in a CAW news release.

“These marine communications officers are the eyes and ears of our coastal waters and play an integral part in rescue support efforts during times of crisis. Cutting these hours only creates conditions for failure.

“The federal government’s relentless push for cost savings under its national austerity program is proving reckless, especially when it directly interferes with the ability of workers to ensure the public is safe,” Lewenza said. “We cannot support these efforts and must speak out against them.”

According to the CAW, other stations affected by the service cuts are Vancouver, Victoria, Tofino, and Comox, British Columbia; Sarnia, Ontario; Quebec City and Les Escoumins, Quebec; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The CAW represents 350 marine communications and traffic services officers across Canada.

Related:  CAW Local 2182, site with online and paper petition

On February 1, the day the service cuts took effect, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield issued his own news release, saying the union statements until that time were “misleading.”

Ashfield said:

“The safety of Mariners is our top priority and we would not implement any policies that would put lives at risk.

“As a result of a risk assessment and workload study, in which the CAW participated, the Coast Guard is reducing the number of overtime hours for employees at Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre to reflect the actual workload at any given time.

“While the union tries to portray this as shortsighted, the fact is that this approach has already been in use successfully in Victoria and Quebec for about 5 and 10 years respectively and the Coast Guard is simply now expanding this approach on a national level.

“There will be no jobs lost as a result of the implementation and mariners will continue to receive the same level of service they currently receive.

“Like any responsible organization, we must ensure that we use our resources wisely. Canadians do not want to be paying for unnecessary or unproductive overtime.”

Enbridge won’t offer better deal to First Nations, may be considering alternate Gateway routes: Reuters

David Ljungren of Reuters, with the Canadian delegation now in Beijing, reports in Enbridge CEO says company won’t offer natives better terms on pipeline (as published in the Globe and Mail) that:

Enbridge Inc. will not offer better financial terms to aboriginal bands standing in the way of a major oil pipeline from energy-rich Alberta to the Pacific Coast, the firm’s chief executive officer said on Thursday.

Pat Daniel also told Reuters that while he was prepared to look at alternate routes for the Northern Gateway pipeline – which is crucial to Canadian plans to export oil to China – he felt the current routing plan [to Kitimat] was the best.

BC 2012 halibut quota drops 8 per cent, as Canada protests devastation caused by pollock trawl in Gulf of Alaska “nursery”

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has recommended a Canadian harvest quota for the 2012 season of 7.038 million pounds of halibut, a decrease of eight per cent from the 2011 quota of 7.650 million pounds.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has yet to confirm the quota but it routinely follows the IPHC recommendation.

The reduction was not as bad as first feared. The commission staff were recommending a B.C coast quota of 6.633 million pounds, a decrease of 16 per cent.

The overall harvest quota decrease for the Pacific coast is 18.3 per cent, due to continuing concerns about the state of the halibut biomass.

The 2012 halibut season is much narrower, opening on March 17 and closing on November 7. The commission says the March 17 opening day was chosen because it is a Saturday and will help the marketing by both commercial and recreational fishers. The earlier November date will allow better assessment of the halibut stock after the 2012 season, according to an IPHC news release. (In Canada, DFO closed the recreational season much earlier than the date recommended by the IPHC, in September, while allowing the commercial harvest to continue.)

In the release following the annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, last week, the IPHC said

The Commission has expressed concern over continued declining catch rates in several areas and has taken aggressive action to reduce harvests. In addition, the staff has noted a continuing problem of reductions in previous estimates of biomass as additional data are obtained, which has the effect of increasing the realized historical harvest rates on the stock. Commission scientists will be conducting additional research on this matter in 2012….

The Commission faced very difficult decisions on the appropriate harvest from the stock and recognized the economic impact of the reduced catch limits recommended by its scientific staff. However, the Commission believes that conservation of the halibut resource is the most important management objective and will serve the best economic interests of the industry over the long term. Accordingly, catch limits adopted for 2012 were lower in all regions of the stock except Areas 2A (California, Oregon and Washington) and 2C (southeastern Alaska)

Pollock trawl bycatch crisis costs Canada $7 million a year

In the bureaucratic language of the IPHC, “The Commission expressed its continued concern about the yield and spawning biomass losses to the halibut stock from mortality of halibut in non-directed fisheries.”

The  IPHC says that British Columbia has made “significant progress” in reducing bycatch mortality and that quotas for vessels for other fish are being monitored, in California, Oregon and Washington have also had some success in reducing bycatch mortality.

It says that “Reductions have also occurred in Alaska, and new measures aimed at improving bycatch estimation, scheduled to begin in 2013, will help to refine these estimates.”

That phrase apparently masks a major problem of bycatch in the halibut nurseries off Alaska.

Craig Medred writing in the Alaska Dispatch in Should Alaska have protected halibut nursery waters noted that the Canadian delegation took a strong stand at the meetings:

Canada has protested that something needs to be done about the trawl industry [mostly for pollock] killing and dumping 10 million pounds of halibut off Alaska’s coast, but the International Pacific Halibut Commission proved powerless to do anything about it.
Meeting [last] week in Anchorage, the commission recognized the trawl catch as a potential problem, but then placed the burden of conservation squarely on the shoulders of commercial longliners along the Pacific Coast from Alaska south to California. The Commission again endorsed staff recommendations to shrink the catches of those fishermen in an effort to avoid an ever-shrinking population of adult halibut.

(This wasn’t reported in the Canadian media despite the importance of halibut both commercial and recreational to the economy of British Columbia. No Canadian media covered the IPHC conference in Alaska, despite the fact that halibut was a major issue in BC in the last federal election)

Medred’s report in the Alaska Dispatch goes on to say that the scientists say the Pacific Ocean is full of juvenile halibut, but that the juveniles seem to be disappearing before they reach spawning age (when the halibut reaches about the 32 inch catch minimum). “How much of this is due to immature fish being caught, killed and wasted by the billion-dollar pollock trawl fishery — which is in essence strip mining the Gulf of Alaska — is unknown.”

Medred says, “Scientists, commercial halibut fishermen and anglers all believe the catch is under-reported. Advisers to the commission — a U.S.-Canada treaty organization — indicated they are beyond frustrated with the bycatch issue.”

The official IPHC Bluebook report to the annual meeting said: “Not all fisheries are observed, therefore bycatch rates and discard mortality rates from similar fisheries are used to calculate bycatch mortality in unobserved fisheries.”

The official report to the IPHC gives one reason that the bycatch in Canadian waters is not as big a problem, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ongoing monitoring of almost all commercial fisheries for bycatch.

But Canada is not satisfied with that and has submitted a formal proposal to the Commission to designate the Gulf of Alaska, “‘an area of special concern.” because the halibut that spawn in the Gulf of Alaska migrate to coastal British Columbia.

The Alaska Dispatch report says that the Canadian delegation told the IPHC: “Canada should not and must not be penalized for uncontrolled bycatch in other regulatory (areas), which IPHC staff have indicated could be costing (Canada) approximately 1 million pounds of lost yield in each year based on current, and what Canada believes may be questionable, estimates of bycatch.”

Medred says that one million pounds of halibut equals a loss of $7 million to Canadian fishermen alone.


IPHC news release, Jan. 31, 2012  (pdf)

International Pacific Halibut Commission confirms 18 per cent cut in overall quota for 2012

According to Alaska media reports, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, meeting in Anchorage, has confirmed an over all  cut in Pacific halibut harvest quota of 18 per cent, or 7.5 million pounds for 2012.

KMXT, an NPR station in Kodiak, Alaska reports 

 Area 3A, the Gulf of Alaska will experience a 17-percent reduction from last year. That results in a 11.9-million pound catch limit, down 2.4-million pounds.

Area 3B along the Alaska Peninsula southwest of Kodiak Island, the reduction is the same 2.4-million pounds, but the percentage reduction is 32 percent, down to just over 5-million pounds. In Area 4A, the eastern Aleutians, the cut is 35 percent.

The only areas that did not get reductions were off the Washington coast in Area 2A, which will get a 9-percent increase, and Area 2C in Southeast Alaska, which will get a 13 percent bump, up almost 300,000 pounds.

There are no figures in the Alaska reports for British Columbia and no news on the International Pacific Halibut Commission website.


More to come
Related: Recreational halibut quota buy-in program had “limited success:” DFO report to IPHC

Editor’s note: A slight change in editorial perspective for Northwest Coast Energy News

When I founded Northwest Coast Energy News last May, I said at that time that I would follow the general policy of many councils, groups and organizations in northwestern British Columbia of a strictly neutral stance on the issue of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

It has become apparent in the past few weeks that a strictly neutral stance is no longer possible. It is probably clear from anyone reading this site that, based in Kitimat, this site has a northwestern British Columbia perspective. So that is now the official policy of this site.

It seems that all the arguments from most of the media and now even an Ottawa think tank have decided that Alberta’s interest in bitumen pipeline development is equivalent to the national interest. It is not a breach of neutrality to ask whether the interests of one province are more important than those of another.

From the first two weeks of testimony in the Joint Review Hearings it is clear that a large majority of people in this part of the province believe that Ottawa and Alberta will completely override the interests and fears of the people of northwestern BC.  Thus there is a need for a site that covers the interests of this region.

There are many people in the northwest who have voiced various degrees of support for the Northern Gateway Pipeline. However, speak to them, as I have, and they all say something like “provided Enbridge fulfills its promises for safety of the pipelines and the tankers.”  Here the site’s neutrality will be maintained but in respect for all sides, it will continue to question the motives and promises from the oil-patch.

Are the promises from Enbridge valid and, if the pipeline is actually built, will future management of Enbridge keep those promises?  (Given corporate history in the energy field and elsewhere of management ignoring the promises of their predecessors, this is perhaps the biggest question of all.)

There is a  constant refrain from the conservative media and the government that “foreigners” have hijacked the hearings.

It’s easy for those who live thousands of kilometres from here, have never been here, who have never bothered study this part of the country or speak to the people, both First Nations and non-First Nations, to demonize northwestern BC.  That might be good wedge issue politics, but they forgot that the pipeline has to be built across this land. In the long run, if it is to be built, that would require not just cooperation, but enthusiastic cooperation from everyone. So far, if the Joint Review hearings are any indication, there isn’t even lukewarm cooperation in the offing, rather fierce opposition.

The hearings in Smithers and Burns Lake last week both went into overtime. First Nations leaders at the Burns Lake hearings angrily complained that elders who had come through (and were delayed by)  a snow storm were not permitted to speak.  The JRP assured them that they would make special arrangements for the elders to speak when the panel returns in the future for the ten minute comments. So much for hijacking the hearings.

Speaking of snow, it’s been snowing non-stop in the northwest for the past four days.  It’s still snowing.  As witnesses at the Kitamaat Village hearing pointed out, it’s not easy to find a leak in a pipeline under three or more metres of snow. For the past few days, DriveBC has been issuing warnings for the highways in the region, highways that are well-maintained and cleared. The logging roads and access roads, which would be needed to get to a pipeline just for maintenance, much for less for stopping a breach, of course, are covered in the three metres or more of snow that has fallen in the past four days (on top of all the snow that has fallen since November)

For the past several days, (in fact for most of January)  marine radio has been sending “hurricane force wind” warnings for the coast, especially in Hecate Strait.

Speaking of hurricane force winds, last week the Costa  Concordia, a $450 million cruise ship with all the latest navigation equipment, the same kind promised by Enbridge that the tankers will carry, went off course, hit a rock off a small island and capsized in calm weather under the command of what was likely a rogue captain.

All of this ignored in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. The vast majority of people who are intervenors and who have signed up for the 10 minute comments live in the path of the pipeline, yet the commentariat concentrate, conveniently on “green radicals” and “foreigners.”  Again good wedge politics, but bad long term policy.

There have been suggestions that by the Macdonald-Laurier think tank in the person of Brian Lee Crowley that the beliefs and values can be solved with the political process.

Even if we ignore that fact that the government of Stephen Harper has, in many cases, open disdain for those who are not conservative, we have to question how much political influence northern BC has, no matter what the government.

The one riding most affected by all this is Skeena-Bulkley Valley, one of the largest ridings by land area, and smallest by population, in Canada. Even those who support the Northern Gateway pipeline, in one way or another, have little faith in Ottawa.  Take such ongoing issues such as the export of raw logs or the way much of the recreational halibut season this year was wiped out by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which appears to favour corporate commercial fishers over small recreational operations.  The Harper government wants hundreds of super tankers sailing up and down the west coast and coming up Douglas Channel, and yet the same government is cutting Coast Guard and DFO resources to the bone. (The official Canadian Coast Guard response time for an incident in Douglas Channel now is eight hours.  That is likely to increase with the cutbacks. The Italian Coast Guard responded to the Costa Concordia sinking in minutes.)

Even when the northwest asks the Harper government to support energy development (in this case LNG) by stationing Canada Border Services at Terrace Kitimat airport so foreign executives won’t have to land at Abbotsford first, costing them time and jet fuel, the government in the person of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews gives the northwest a not so polite brush off.

One piece of advice to Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa.  If you really want that pipeline, you’d better stop demonizing the people most affected (some of whom support the pipeline but are tarred with the same brush). That “vociferous minority” is actually a majority here.

The late American congressman Tip O’Neill is often quoted when he said “all politics is local.”

Since Ottawa, at this point, wants Alberta local politics to trump northwestern BC local politics on the pipeline issue, that means we are living in very interesting times.

That is why this site will continue to cover the issues involved as completely as time allows, from the perspective of northwestern British Columbia.








Gingrich wins South Carolina primary, mangles Canadian geography, denounces Canadian plans to sell oil to China

Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Republican primary Saturday night, Jan. 21. 2012, beating his chief rival Mitt Romney, who had a disappointing 27 per cent of the vote.

According to numerous media reports, in his victory speech Gingrich took aim at Canada, the Northern Gateway pipeline (without mentioning it by name) and, according to several reports, completely mangling Canadian geography on a couple of occasions.

According to the Canadian Press, Gingrich told cheering supporters in Charleston.

 [He] maligned the Obama administration for recently rejecting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, a project he erroneously said would bring much-needed oil to Texas from “central Canada.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a “conservative and a pro-American,” he said, and now Canada will be forced to sell its oil to China.

“An American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country,” he said.

The Toronto Star reports:

“Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper — who, by the way, is a conservative and pro-American — will cut a deal with the Chinese,” Gingrich said “We have a president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership . . . (it is) truly a danger to this country.”

Tweets from people watching the speech, unconfirmed, so far, by news reports quote Gingrich as describing the Northern Gateway pipeline as “Harper has said he’ll “build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver.”

UPDATED: David Atkin of SunMedia quotes the complete excerpt from Gingrich’s speech in his blog.

The president says, “No”, we don’t you to build a pipeline from central Canada straight down with no mountains intervening to the largest petrochemical centre in the world, Houston, so that we’d make money on the pipeline, we’d make money on managing the pipeline, we’d make money on refining the oil, and we’d make money on the ports of Houston and Galveston shipping the oil. Oh no, we don’t want to do that because Barack Obama and his extremist left-wing friends in San Francisco … They think that’ll really stop the oil from heading out. No. What Prime Minister Harper– who, by the way, is Conservative and pro-American — what he has said, is he’s gonna cut a deal with the Chinese and they’ll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver .. We’ll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity. Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country.”

CBC Ottawa blogger Kady O’Malley @kady tweeted: @kady: Narrative that pipelines Canada’s “our” decision is somewhat undercut by Newt acting as though China is stealing his oil. #NGP

Denouncing Canadian export of oil apparently became part of Gingrich’s stump speech as he campaigned in South Carolina.  One local newspaper reported he made similar remarks on Wednesday, Jan. 18:

When he took the podium in the Valley Wednesday, Gingrich had some fresh news – that the president is rejecting the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Gingrich called the decision stupid, saying it will cost Americans jobs and the opportunity to get closer to energy independence.

“My goal is to make America so energy independent that no president has to bow down to a Saudi king,” Gingrich said. “It’s inconceivable that an American president would drive Canada into a partnership with China.”


According to the Star Ledger in New Jersey, Gingrich also made similar remarks about San Francisco and Canada on Friday. Paul Mulshine writes:

When the question-and-answer session began, a man asked about President Obama’s failure to move ahead with the Keystone Pipeline, a project that would bring oil from the Canadian tar sands south to the Gulf of Mexico for refining. Gingrich said that project could be under way already except that “the president decided that in order to appease a bunch of left-wing extremists in San Francisco, he’s going to stop Canadian oil.”

He then explained how the Canadians will gladly ship the oil to China if we don’t want it. It sounded good and he even had me for a moment. But then I remembered the Nancy Pelosi commercial from 2008. It’s shows Gingrich sharing a couch with a woman who could arguably be called the most powerful San Francisco liberal of all. The then-speaker of the House and the former speaker of the House sat on a couch (below) delivering a message on the need to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

Now Gingrich is denying he ever supported cap-and-trade.

Kitimat voices at the Joint Review: Peter G. King

Northwest Coast Energy News will use selected testimony from the Joint Review hearings, where that testimony can easily turned into a web post. Testimony referring to documents, diagrams or photographs will usually not be posted if  such references are required. Depending on workload, testimony may be posted sometime after it originally occurred. Posting will be on the sole editorial judgment of the editor.


I’ve been a resident of Kitimat for 53 years and the issues, as I see them, are economic diversity and challenges. One of the problems we face is urbanization. We end up with whole populations centred in large areas. This may work fine when things are going well, but it doesn’t work fine when things break down. does it work?

In the Vancouver area, people live in Delta and work in North Vancouver or go to university in UBC and live in Abbotsford. This would involve a two-hour commute both ways, totalling four hours in travel.

Then there’s the cost of travel to and from work, counting vehicles, fuel, parking and all extras that go along with it. The commute can cost $40 a day, on average. Of course, this is — there is mass transit, but the problem with mass transit is it sets up in the most economical way for obvious reasons.

But by doing this, it adds an hour to the commute on either end, so now the commute is three hours each way, so there is a trade-off, but it’s equal in the end.

For both people to work with and the same amount of cash out of pocket, the person who drives to work ends up having to work two hours a day more to pay for the commute but by the time — the way home would work out to be the same.

Of course, you could live closer to work, but that involves the same financial trade-off; if you live near your work, your residence will cost more. If you work close to where you live, your job may not pay as well.

Social diversity. Let’s pick up where the home/work example left off. If you live in a small area, without trying, a person’s quality of life increases by adding three hours to their home or leisure time. Since everyone lives within 15-minute drive to work or 30-minute bus ride away, no parking.

Crime is a major social problem in large centralized areas. If there is a crime in Vancouver, there’s thousands of possible suspects over hundreds of square miles and it could take weeks and months to solve the crime. In a small area, you have three possible suspects; one was in the hospital, one was at work, leaving you with one suspect; crime takes eight hours to solve in small areas.

Violence, for instance, if you see a fight in the street in Vancouver area, you do not know either person, so you’re isolated from it. In small areas, there’s a good chance you know both parties; this gives you a greater need to get involved and help solve the issue.

Children. When you go to Vancouver, you seldom see children playing in the street. For one, traffic is so much higher, but making friendship bonds is a problem as well. In small areas, children on the street will go to the same school, play on the same hockey team, shop at the same grocery store, go to the same church. The odds of this happening in a large area is very remote.

Thirty minutes after leaving the Vancouver Airport Terminal, your sinuses plug up. The reason is the concentration of car, truck and industrial pollution in the air. Nature has the ability to clean itself if the concentration levels are not too high, but in large centres we always suffer from bad air quality and water quality from what we have seen earlier with many commuters, most of which is with engines idling.

If I went to a local river and put a teaspoon of oil in a rural river, it would not be noticed by anyone, not by the river, not by the wildlife, but in a large centre you could have the equivalent of one million teaspoons of oil put in river waterways just from the storm sewers.

The concentration of human, chemical waste in the septic sewer systems going into the waterways in Vancouver is evidenced from these problems.

This is why there’s the discussions of dead zones at the mouths of waterways of large populated areas in the world. A horse can carry 10 tonnes on its back as long as it’s done in small amounts over long periods of time. If you put a whole 10 tonnes on a horse’s back at one time, you would kill it, and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand why.

If you’re sitting down and drink four litres of bleach, you would die, but if you diluted it one-part-per-million in water and then drank it over a lifetime, you could drink four litres of bleach and there would be no effects on your body at all because you’d probably have — you’ve not overwhelmed your body. It may have benefits by preventing harmful bacteria’s from increasing in the water.

Chances of a spill. The busiest waterway in the world is the Suez Canal.
There were 7,987 ships of all descriptions passing through it in 2010; that is 22 ships a day. The channel is 24 metres deep and 205 metres wide in 2010. The channel is a single lane and passes at — I hope I pronounce it — Ballah bypass, and in the greater Bitter Lake contains no locks and seawater flows privy through the channel.

Some supertankers are too large to traverse the channel. Others can offload part of their cargo into channel boats, reducing their draft, then transit to reload at the other end of the channel.
The Douglas Channel is 1,400 metres wide at its narrowest part. That is seven times wider than the Suez Canal. The Douglas Channel is also 200 metres deep, that is eight times deeper than the Suez Canal.

Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has been a threat in the Suez Canal since the 21st century. Piracy is not a problem in the Douglas Channel.

War zones. The Suez Canal was a target in World War I, World War II, and a few regional wars, and probably is a target in the near future. Being in a war zone is not a problem for the Douglas Channel.

Global diversity. My family and I are very blessed. We are healthy, wealthy and happy. Do I, as a person, have the right to deny other people in the world the same dreams and blessing? If this permit is denied, people in other areas of the world will have to pay more for energy for different reasons. We see the tsunami, earthquakes putting pressure on Japan and its nuclear power program.

If it is denied, I will be able to pay less for our energy. Globally, is this fair?

If I have all the food and I refuse to sell it to 100 starving people, should I be surprised when they take it from me for force? Should I have the ability to stop other people in the world from getting energy? No. But I have the ability to control how the energy is used in an economic, social, environmentally responsible way.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage the approval of the export licence at Kitimat for economic, social, environmental diversification locally and worldwide.


Kitimat voices at Joint Review: Murray Minchin Douglas Channel Watch

Northwest Coast Energy News will use selected testimony from the Joint Review hearings, where that testimony can easily turned into a web post. Testimony referring to documents, diagrams or photographs will usually not be posted if  such references are required. Depending on workload, testimony may be posted sometime after it originally occurred. Posting will be on the sole editorial judgment of the editor.

By Murray Minchin

I’ve been here since I was about four years old. I’m 52-ish now so I’ve been here for 48 years. I’ve left for school, went to college. I would go travelling and then — but I always came back. Like the power of this place always drew me back.

I’ve hiked almost every mountain in the region and I’ve hiked the rivers and particularly the little tiny side creeks that run down the mountain sides here. And as you drive in there’s a little tiny creek that runs into the marina at Minette Bay.

So if you’re ever back, there’s a hint to you, there’s about 12 waterfalls on that little tiny inconsequential creek that nobody ever even thinks about. I suggest you take a walk up there because it’s incredibly beautiful. This area is loaded with places like that, that are singularly beautiful on a really small scale when you step back from the whole and you go into these little tiny spots. They’re just amazing.

I’ve sea kayaked quite a bit. My wife and I spent six months sea kayaking down the whole coast of British Columbia. We did two months in the winter, two months in the spring and fall and two months in the summer. So we did six months over the whole year.

It takes about two weeks when you’re out there for just the mess — the extra stuff in your head from our society and our way of life to just kind of drop away, and after about three weeks then you begin to open your eyes and you begin to feel comfortable in a place. Like you become essentially really comfortable in the environment.

When we got to Port Hardy we booked a motel room and walked in the motel room and we sat down on the floor and we started going through our gear and started talking.

It took about 15 minutes before we realized that there were chairs in the room and we could sit on them. Like we were just so in tune with being out in the bush and — like that really changes your perception of the world. You know, like you become a little more aware.

Now, like for me, when I walk into the forest here it’s like an embrace.
There’s — it’s a palpable feeling to me that I feel completely embraced and at home in this environment.

I dropped over in the Mount Madden or into the Skeena watershed into a cirque that was surrounded by waterfalls dropping into it. So I couldn’t hear anything but the waterfalls, and as I came around the lake I heard the sound of a grizzly bear just screaming his head off and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from because the sound was echoing off the rock walls.

You know, I had to hunker down under trees and then just stop and think,
okay, like take it easy, don’t do anything too fast, take your time, make the right
choice. Experiences like that sort of show you that you — our place in the environment isn’t as strong as we think we — as it is. Like the environment has a lot more drastic effect on us than we realize.

Oh, and it was a couple of decades later I was listening to the CBC radio and I heard that sound again, and evidently it was older mature cubs fighting over a kill, cause I recognized that sound right away. But when I was out there I didn’t know, I thought it was directed towards me, possibly.

My daughter was two or three years old when I began taking her into the forest. Just past here there’s the marina, and then if you take a trail past the marina, there’s a totem pole in the forest, and you take a walk past the totem pole, you follow this trail that goes along the shoreline. So she was on my hip and we were walking through the forest.

I walked off to the side and I picked a red huckleberry off the bush and then gave it to her, and she popped it in her mouth and then, like her eyes lit up and she started jumping, you know, because she started pointing and now I had to walk through the forest to every red huckleberry bush so that she could get a taste of the red huckleberries. Now that’s part of her life and that will be part of her oral history.

On part of that trip we had a couple experiences, — on our kayak trip we had some experiences- just trying to figure a way to frame this — like yesterday at Haisla we were saying that in particular with the whales, like they’re here but in the past there was a great number of them, you know.

On our kayak trip after leaving Bishop Bay we came out on to three sleeping humpback whales, which was an amazing experience for us. But as I understand now, in the past, there would have been a lot more. And I’m really — fills me with hope to hear that they’re coming back. And it’s some disconcerting to think that that could be jeopardized in any way.

Kanoona Falls. It’s just above Butedale. Like here water is everything. we got stuck there for four days in big storms near hurricane force storms and it was raining really hard. This river was in flood; it was up into the trees on either bank and it was running completely pure, like there was no sediment in it. There It wasn’t muddy. It was just a pure river running
wild. And this is what the Kitimat River must have looked like in the past, you know, running pure in flood and no sediment.

There’s so much rain here that in mid-channel — like a channel could be two or three miles wide and there’s so much rain coming off the mountains, through the rivers and streams into the ocean that the seagulls take freshwater baths at mid-channel. It makes me wonder, scientists being who they are, engineering being who they are, the Proponent trusting their advice, has made estimations on spill response and stuff with materials and saltwater.

In the winter here you’d have to go down a foot, probably, before you find saltwater and in fact we had the sea kayak 140 kilometres south from Kitimat before salted to encrust on our decks. That’s how much freshwater is out there.

So any of the Proponent’s estimations on spill response times in saltwater, which is denser of course, should be looked at or refigured because saltwater being denser would hold the product underneath the level of the freshwater on top.

Here it rains like crazy, just suggested by the moss that you can barely see in the contrasting photograph but the forest here filters the rain so that it enters
into the rivers and the rivers run clean and the salmon and the eulachon spawn in the clean river which brings the bears; the bears carry the fish into the forest, don’t eat all of the fish and then it feeds the forest when then filters the rains for the next — for the next salmon coming up.

It snows like crazy here, like I said, you guys are really lucky that you dodged one by coming here when you did. Like four-foot snowfalls are an amazing thing to you. You know, it’s not a snowfall it’s a force of nature.

If you catch a snowflake on your tongue, one of those snowflakes on your tongue you wait for it to melt, it doesn’t and you have to chew it; like they’re twice the size of a toonie, you know, and a quarter inch thick. It’s hard to imagine but it’s a force of nature when it’s snowing like that which brings concerns about access issues, obviously.

[There are] access issues, just daily access issues anywhere, particularly on to logging roads or access roads into the wilderness, there are going to be of a great concern and even more so in emergencies when equipment and materials have to be moved anywhere.

Another problem we have here in thinking about liquid petroleum product moving through this territory is the length of out winters. The average night time low is below freezing for five months of the year and for another one of those months it’s just one degree above freezing; so things can lock up and be under ice for months at a time.

If there is any slow leak — for lack of a better term — which we haven’t been able to iron out through the information request process, you know, a spill could go for weeks without being recognized, even if the weather is good enough to get a helicopter up to fly over the area. Things could be under the ice and invisible until it gets to Kitimat and somebody notices that there is a spill happening.

This is a sapling that is growing in an estuary and it tried, I mean it tried everything it had, it had branches ripped off, the prevailing winds and it struggled but eventually it just got pushed over and died because it was in the wrong place, which I think much like this proposal and this attempt to get tar sands, bitumen from Alberta to Asia and California is — it’s just in the wrong place.

So this, to me, this is in the wrong place and this is just the first such proposal that’s reached this level of inquiry or to reach the Joint Review Panel stage, it doesn’t necessarily make it the right one and that’s really important, especially considering how much — how many forces they’re being applied to use. Well, to buy different entities to approve this project.

It’s really important to remain cognisant of the fact that this is just the first
one; it doesn’t make it the right one.

Getting back to the environmental aspect of this; this is a nurse log. You can’t see it because of the contrast of the projector. But it’s a nurse log with little tiny seedlings of more hemlock trying to grow through it. The fungus is breaking down the log. And this natural system, if it’s allowed to play out, will recover.

If we give this place a chance to recover, it will; the cumulative effects of all the industry that’s been in here and the damage it’s done over time.

It’s shocking to think in 60 years you can kill a river. And that’s what’s happened here. We’ve almost done it. Like the salmon are hanging on because of the hatchery. The eulachon are almost gone.

If we give it a chance, it can recover. The humpback whales are coming back this far into the channel. Like we saw one in front of the — I don’t know if you’ve eaten at that — the restaurant here, but last year we were here and there was one feeding right outside on the beach, just off — about 100 feet off the beach.

So if we give it a chance, it will recover. And to threaten that in any way is — morally, for me, it’s just wrong. To risk so much for so little short term gain is not part of my mindset. I can’t comprehend that.

Like this spruce on Haida Gwaii; it’s on the Hecate Strait side of Haida Gwaii. You know, it’s in from the beach a little bit but, you know, with the 120 kilometre an hour, 100-whatever an hour kilometre an hour with northerly outflow winds we have around here, even a place like this would get spray from bitumen that’s coming in at high tide.

This is a tree that’s just barely hanging on, on Cape George. It’s on the southern end of Porcher Island with Hecate Strait in the background. And it’s just an example of what things have to do here when — to try and survive when the environment is so severe.

We paddled up into here on our sea kayaking trip, we came in at high tide and we were looking up at the rocks and then back into the distance and there was still nothing growing. It was just incredible to think.

So after we set up camp, I came around here and then took this photograph because where the water is, is high tide and beach logs are normally pushed up down the line along the shoreline, you know, nice and neatly tucked against the forest by the high tides.

these are just scattered all over the rocks, and that’s because the waves there are so big in the wintertime when the southeast storms come in that, I mean, like there’s nothing living for 10 feet up and, I don’t know, 70, 80 feet back because of the continual, every year storms coming in and pushing these logs and rolling them around.

Huckleberries, beach grasses, hemlock trees, anything will — if there’s any available space for something to grow, it’s going to grow. So this just speaks to the fact that the storms here are so continual and so severe that it’s a recipe for disaster.

You get waves crashing in on — so high onto a ship that the spray is getting down into the air ducts and down into the mechanics of the ship and then you’re adrift.

It’s a different — like after you — from travelling east, once you come into the Skeena Valley and you cross over that coast Range Mountains, everything is different. All your precepts from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, don’t matter here. There are severe environmental risks here beyond anything else in Canada.

I mean, the mountains are so young. The seismicity of the area is the area is questionable because there hasn’t been that much accumulated evidence over time. So it’s just something to be aware of.

It’s a place called Cape George on Porcher Island, which is just above Kitkatla.

There is Cape George, and this is just a storm that happened to miss us, but we were stormbound there for about four days.

I ask of you that you really consider that responsibility. You know, obviously you do, but it’s important for us to know that you, that you take that responsibility really seriously because like the — in t he Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office Reference Guide, as a guide to determining whether a project is likely to cause a significant environmental effect or not, it’s quoted as saying:

The Act is clear that the project may be allowed to proceed if any likely significant adverse environmental effects can be justified in the circumstances.

So what possible circumstances are there to risk such a place and to risk so many First Nations cultures?

So what I was saying was if you give nature a chance to heal, it will heal itself, and that’s what’s happening here and that’s what the Haisla elders were telling us yesterday, that this place wants to heal itself and it can if we give it a chance.

You know, to add more risk to the cumulative damage that’s already been done here, I think, would be essentially a crime. It should be given a chance to heal.

Another thing that Mr. Ellis Ross said yesterday was, you know, much like he’s making his own history, his oral history today and in his life, like you are as Panel Members making your own history as well and your ancestors are going to speak of what decision you made and the consequences of that decision.


Editorial: BC and Canada must ask why the Costa Concordia sank

How could one of the most modern cruise ships in the world, the Italian liner Costa Concordia, presumably with GPS, satellite navigation, modern charts both on paper and computers, triple redundant aircraft type “bridge navigation systems,” depth sounders and hopefully look outs, hit rocks near the island of Giglio off Italy in calm seas on a calm night in the Mediterranean?

Update: Ship’s owners blame human error
Northwest Coast Energy News Cruise line issues statement emphasizing safety precautions, but blaming captain

Media reports are saying the sinking of the Costa Concordia was caused by “human error.”AP via The Globe and Mail Cruise captain’s conduct blasted as divers find more bodies

Maritime authorities, passengers and mounting evidence pointed Sunday toward the captain of a cruise liner that ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan coast, amid accusations that he abandoned ship before everyone was safely evacuated and was showing off when he steered the vessel far too close to shore.

BBC Cruise captain ‘committed errors’, say ship’s owners

The company operating a cruise ship that capsized after hitting rocks off western Italy on Friday says the captain may have “committed errors”.

He appears to have sailed too close to land and not to have followed the company’s emergency procedures, Costa Crociere said in a statement.

Capt Francesco Schettino is suspected of manslaughter, but denies wrongdoing.

Daily Telegraph Cruise disaster: ship’s owners blame human error

Independent on Sunday Jan 15, 2012
Front page of the UK's Indpendent on Sunday Jan. 15, 2012

(Media reports are different. Some say rock, since there is clearly a huge rock lodged in the ship’s upturned hull seen in news photos and media video, or a reef or a sandbar)

It’s a question being asked around the world at the moment, as the rescue operation continues at this writing. It’s a question being asked up and down the coast of British Columbia, not only because similar cruise ships ply the Inside Passage but because of the debate over the possibility of bitumen-carrying supertankers on the coast.

There’s another question you’re already hearing on when the television networks interview experienced mariners and naval architects. The Mediterranean off the west coast of Italy isn’t exactly uncharted waters, that region has been sailed for “thousands of years.”

The headline in Sunday’s UK Independent, “We hit a rock, it shouldn’t have been there,” brings to mind Odysseus. When Odysseus left the bed of Circe, the seer, one of the things she warned him to beware of were the “wandering rocks.” Most scholars believe that the wandering rocks were far to the south of the accident scene. The British sailor Ernle Bradford, who sailed what he thought to be the route of Odysseus in the early 1960s, and published his story in Ulysses Found, believed the Wandering Rocks were in the Straits of Messina, and might have referred to eruptions from the volcano Stromboli.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by the Italian police, who are holding the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, for questioning. The sinking will also be investigated by Italian and presumably other maritime authorities (since there were many nationalities, including Canadians, on board).

It is highly unlikely that there were “wandering rocks” in the path of the Costa Concordia. That’s not the point, the point is that Odyssey reflects the fact the mariners from Mycenean Greece and even earlier the Minoans and Phoenicians were sailing the waters where the Costa Concordia grounded by at least 1250 BCE, the usually accepted date of the Trojan War. Local mariners and fishers probably sailed that area for a couple of thousand years before the first traders ventured into the Mediterranean. If we take 1250 BCE as a starting date for trading ships in that region, that is 3,262 years ago.

The island of Sardinia, not far from the sinking site was, according to scholars, (including the distinguished Robin Lane Fox in Travelling Heroes Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer), the cross roads of the Mediterranean from about 1100 BCE to about 700 BCE. That’s because with the limited capacity of the shore hugging galleys and freighters of the era, Sardinia was a perfect meeting and trading point for the Celts to the north, the Iberians to the West, the Etruscans and others in Italy, the Carthaginians and west African people to the south and the great traders of that age, the Greeks and the Phoenicians from the east.

Odysseus as portrayed on a Roman mosaic.

Simple conclusion, if we take the date from 1100 BCE, the sea around Giglio has been charted for 3,112 years. Those scholars of the sea believe that the warnings Circe gave Odysseus were adapted by Homer from real sailing instructions probably passed down as oral poems in age, between the collapse of Mycenean culture and the rise of classical Greece, when only a tiny handful of Phoenicians could read or write.

One has to wonder if the bridge crew of the Costa Concordia had just had a Roman chart, whether or not the cruise ship could have avoided the rocks/sandbar/reef.

So what went wrong and what does that mean for the controversial plan to have hundreds of both bitumen and LNG laden tankers going up and down the British Columbia coast?

Britain’s Daily Telegraph is already asking what went wrong, in Cruise disaster: Perfect storm of events caused Costa Concordia crash. The Telegraph is pointing out something critical to the plans by Enbridge for a highly computerized navigation system for Douglas Channel, the Inside Passage and the British Columbia coast: that many of today’s bridge officers don’t have the skills that Capt. George Vancouver would have demanded even from the youngest teenaged  midshipman when he first charted the  west coast for the Royal Navy.

The captain was reported to have said he hit a rock that was not marked on his charts. But that failed to explain adequately the scale of the disaster, which experts said should be unthinkable….

The Concordia, whose officers were all Italian, will also have operated Bridge Team Management, a system adopted from the aviation industry whereby each operation is double and triple-checked by several members of the crew….

Modern ships are required to carry voyage data recorders which store detailed information about the vessel’s speed, position, heading, radar and communications…

The first thing investigators will have to determine is whether the vessel should even have been where it was.

A source close to the investigation told a leading Italian newspaper that the boat was on the wrong course — possibly due to human error — and was sailing too close to Giglio.

The ship should have passed to the west of the island, rather than the east, according to this theory.

Yesterday fishermen on Giglio and in Porto Santo Stefano said it was very unusual for such a large ship to attempt a passage to the east of the island….

Douglas Ward, a cruise ship expert and author of Berlitz Ocean Cruising and Cruise Ships, said: “Crew don’t have as much training as in the past.

“Ships today are built with completely enclosed navigation bridges and the navigators don’t even have to learn how to use a sextant, whereas marine officers in the past always had to.

“The advance in hi-tech navigation systems is so good that we have come to rely on them. But even these can fail — look at car satnavs.”

So if the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is approved, and even if Enbridge implements all the navigation improvements it says it will, it all comes down to the competence of a bridge crew. Perhaps a GPS could tell them to turn to port instead of starboard (as GPS units in cars sometimes do) and there could be tanker hitting Gill Island, just where the Queen of the North sank, even if it is tied to an escort tug.

What makes the sinking of the Costa Concordia  even more frightening is the negligence of Stephen Harper  and his cabinet cronies who are gutting Canadian Coast Guard and DFO resources on both the West and East Coasts.  It will be years before those super tankers might start coming up Douglas Channel.  There was lots of rescue capability on the coast of Italy from the Italian coast guard and local boats. What about the giant cruise ships, a key aspect of the British Columbia economy?  What if one of those ships got in trouble? The captain of the Costa Concordia was able to beach the ship right by the sea wall at the port of Giglio.  On the rocky coast of BC,   that giant cruise ship could go to the bottom in minutes just as the Queen of the North did, with little or no immediate hope of rescue.


Bradford's voyage
A detail of a map from Ernle Bradford's Ulysses Found, published in 1964, retracing the voyage of Odysseus. Homer's epic is probably a record of a voyage around 1250 BCE. The point where the Costa Concordia sank has been added.

Links January 12, 2012