Special Report: New study identifies earthquake hazards for Hartley Bay, Bella Bella, Kitimat and Terrace

UPDATED with comments from District of Kitimat, Terrace and the Gitga’at Nation

A preliminary seismic hazard assessment by Natural Resources Canada has identified possible earthquake scenarios for the Douglas Channel near Hartley Bay, Terrace and Bella Bella.

The same studies indicate that while Kitimat may not be directly in a seismic zone prolonged earthquakes cause some damage in Kitimat depending on the earthquake and the condition of the soil in certain parts of the District. One model scenario says that in the event of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, given certain soil conditions, there might actually be more damage in Kitimat than on the islands.

Susceptibility to landslides

That assessment, part of the overall the study by the Geological Survey of Canada indicates that the north coast of British Columbia from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella is likely face to “seismically induced ground failure”– mostly landslides.

Overall, the report says that on a scale of 1 to 6 (6 representing the highest
susceptibility), the majority of the west coast of BC “exhibits landslide susceptibility values of 5 to 6, which is significantly higher than the rest of Canada.”

Geological Survey of Canada map showing parts of Canada that are prone to landslides. The BC North Coast study area is outlined by the rectangle. (Geological Survey of Canada)
Geological Survey of Canada map showing parts of Canada that are prone to landslides. The BC North Coast study area is outlined by the rectangle. (Geological Survey of Canada)

In British Columbia the landslides are most likely to be triggered by delayed melting of the annual snow pack, heavy rains, bank erosion and site loading and caused long-lasting damning of the river causing “damage to pipelines, rail, and forestry, as well as fish habitats.”

So far no recent landslides along the northern British Columbia coast are known to be caused by earthquakes, the reports say “the existence of numerous landslides strengthens the likelihood of seismically induced ground failures… due to the high levels of seismicity….it is expected that the increased likelihood of strong ground shaking (with long durations) will increase the landslide susceptibility.”

New studies

It was only after the 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake and with what the Geological Survey of Canada calls “a growing number of on-going and planned infrastructure projects, BC’s north coast is emerging as a region of high strategic importance to Canada’s economy,” that studies began in area where “there has been minimal research to understand earthquake hazards.”

Now that studies have begun the Geological Survey has given the region its own new acronym BCNC (BC North Coast). Haida Gwaii is not part of BCNC, although earthquakes on those islands would likely impact the coast.

A Geological Survey of Canada map showing the BC North Coast region with earthquakes identified prior to and during recent studies. (Geological Survey of Canada)
A Geological Survey of Canada map showing the BC North Coast region with earthquakes identified prior to and during recent studies. (Geological Survey of Canada)

The Geological Survey says that historically “the BCNC has been seismically quiescent.” As a result “seismic monitoring and research related to the BCNC has been minimal.” That meant while larger earthquakes were “felt and recorded,” the configuration of the Canadian National Seismograph Network did not allow earthquakes less than approximately magnitude 2.1 to be monitored in northern BC.

Now the Geological Survey is looking at “long-term, continuous monitoring of micro seismicity, combined with geodetic and paleo seismic techniques” that could be used to study at the possibility of large earthquakes, including a possible fault on the lower Douglas Channel.

Since the studies began in August 2014, the Geological Survey identified 145 earthquakes within the study area, many too small to be felt since they are less than magnitude 2.0. Those earthquakes, however, were picked up by the new and improved instrumentation used by the earthquake monitors.

The two reports one on “seismic hazards” and the second on “geohazards” says five “temporary seismonitors”  (download reports from links below) were installed within the BCNC while some older stations were upgraded, saying, “It is expected that these new stations will be aid in locating small earthquakes” that were not previously detected by the existing network. The Geological Survey also installed ground movement monitoring GPS units along the coast.

The use of the term “temporary” raises the question about how much ongoing monitoring is planned.

The study also notes that the current data is not included in the seismic standards in the current National Building Code of Canada, which in turn is based on the Natural Resources Canada Seismic Hazard Map. That may mean that municipalities in the BC North Coast region, in the future, as the seismic studies continue, may have to consider updating building codes, especially in areas of “softer soils” as opposed to harder rock.

“Fault-like structure” on Douglas Channel

Detail of a map from the Geological Survey of Canada where the red line shows the 60 kilometre possible (still unconfirmed) fault line running from Gribbell Island to Princess Royal Island (Geological Survey of Canada)
Detail of a map from the Geological Survey of Canada where the red line shows the 60 kilometre possible (still unconfirmed) fault line running from Gribbell Island to Princess Royal Island (Geological Survey of Canada)

Over the years some small earthquakes have also been recorded on what the Geological Survey calls the “recently mapped fault-like structure” on Douglas Channel which was discovered in 2012. The survey is still calling it “fault-like” because it has not yet been confirmed as an active fault. A new map in the study shows that the “fault” runs from the southern tip of Gribbell Island, down the centre of Whale Channel east of Gil Island and then along the western coast of Princess Royal Island.

The study identified “a small, unfelt swarm of earthquakes between magnitude 1.7 and 2.0 between September 13 and 14, 2010 near Gil Island.”

There is also the previously identified ancient Grenville Channel Fault (ancient and believed inactive because it dates from the Cretaceous, the age of the dinosaurs) that runs from along Grenville Channel from Porcher Island in the north to Klemtu in the south which has experienced small earthquakes.

The report says geological studies of the Douglas Channel “fault-like structure” are a priority because, “Should this structure be determined to be an active fault, it would pose significant risk of earthquake-triggered landslides (and subsequent tsunami) from the susceptible Douglas Channel hill slopes.”

Clay and sand in Kitimat

The report also calls for more studies the local geology and soil conditions in the Kitimat Valley. A study back in 1984 by John Clague of Simon Fraser University showed that as the glaciers retreated during the last Ice Age there were “periods of stagnation” resulting in sediments that are thicker than other regions of British Columbia, Clague reported that in parts of Kitimat, the glacial moraine is hundreds of metres thick.

After the glaciers were gone, the sea levels rose and glaciomarine sediments (clay, silt up to 60 metres thick) were deposited until the sea level fell to present-day levels. The report says that as these marine deposits were exposed to fresh water, salts were leached out resulting in saturated, porous sediments, including clay, which are prone to failure. Boreholes in the Kitimat area show that the clay and sediments above the bedrock can range from 17 metres to 106 metres.

The report notes the presence of clay soils “can amplify ground shaking and secondary effects” as happened in November 1988 when there was an earthquake in the Saguenay region of Quebec.

Originally reported as a 6.2 magnitude but later downgraded to 5.9, on Nov. 25, 1988, the major earthquake was centered near the Quebec cities of Chicoutimi and Jonquière, with aftershocks felt as far away as Toronto, Halifax and Boston. The quake lasted for two minutes, catching thousands of people off guard and leaving buildings damaged and power out for hundreds of thousands of Quebecers.

CBC Television reported the earthquake caused a leak of toxic gas at the Alcan Aluminum plant at Jonquière, which was quickly contained. “There was no wind, we were basically lucky,” Alcan spokesman Jacques Dubac told CBC News at the time. 

Terrace earthquake

The report says the most significant event within the BC North Coast study region (which as mentioned doesn’t include Haida Gwaii) was a magnitude 4.9 earthquake approximately 20 kilometers southwest of Terrace on November 5, 1973, which was felt as far as 120 kilometers away, with some minor damage (broken windows and cracked plaster) reported near the epicentre. The main shock at Terrace was preceded by a magnitude 2.5 foreshock four hours before, and followed by a felt magnitude 3.7 aftershock the next day.

Bella Bella at risk

Another area most at risk, according to the report, is southern part of the BC North Coast zone, near Bella Bella, which is close to the northern section  Cascadia Subduction Zone  a “1,000 kilometre long dipping fault that stretches from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino California” which one day will cause a major earthquake along the fault.

Cascadia subduction zone (USGS)
Cascadia subduction zone (USGS)

The report says that a magnitude 9.0 or higher earthquake in the northern Cascadia Subduction zone close to Bella Bella would be similar to the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska.

For the northern part of the BC North Coast region, hazards could come from either a major earthquake off Haida Gwaii or a similar earthquake in south-eastern Alaska.

The greatest hazard would come from “long period” earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.75 with an epicentre between 300 and 350 kilometers away where the shaking lasts longer than one second.

The Geological Survey modeled three possible scenarios for major earthquakes in the BC North Coast Region.

Model #1. A magnitude 8.0 Earthquake at Haida Gwaii

The Geological Survey Canada model for an 8.0 magnitude earthquake west of Haida Gwaii. The possible damage is colour coded in the table below the map according to the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (Geological Survey of Canada)
The Geological Survey Canada model for an 8.0 magnitude earthquake west of Haida Gwaii. The possible damage is colour coded in the table below the map according to the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.  The red polygon represents the area of possible rupture in the model with the star representing the epicentre. (Geological Survey of Canada)

The model looked at a “plausible maximum predicted” magnitude 8.0 thrust fault earthquake off the west coast of Haida Gwaii which would be twice as strong in the fault area as the 7.8 quake on October 28, 2012 (Remember Magnitudes are based on a logarithmic scale. That means for each whole number higher, the amplitude of the ground motion recorded by a seismograph goes up ten times so magnitude 8 earthquake would result in ten times the ground shaking as a magnitude 7 earthquake)

For a short period earthquake, the report estimates that there would be minimal damage on Haida Gwaii similar to the damage from the 2012 earthquake with little or no damage on the BC North Coast.

A long duration, long period earthquake that lasted longer than one second and up to three seconds or longer “may effect taller structures and trigger ground failure (that is liquefaction and lateral shaking).” Kitimat would feel that earthquake with the worst shaking in parts of the District with what the report calls “sensitive soils.” Coastal islands would feel double the amount of shaking as would occur in Kitimat.

Model #2. A magnitude 7.2 Earthquake in Douglas Channel

 The Geological Survey Canada model for a 7/2 magnitude earthquake in the lower Douglas Channel. The possible damage is colour coded in the table below the map according to the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. The red star represents the possible epicentre. (Geological Survey of Canada)

The Geological Survey Canada model for a 7/2 magnitude earthquake in the lower Douglas Channel. The possible damage is colour coded in the table below the map according to the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. The red star represents the possible epicentre. (Geological Survey of Canada)

The second model looked at an earthquake in Douglas Channel based on the “fault like structure” if a slip strike rupture occurred along the entire 60 kilometers of the so far unconfirmed fault, resulting in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. There would be very strong shaking within 20 kilometers radius of the epicentre, with moderate to heavy damage” in the relatively uninhabited islands, major shaking in Hartley Bay, resulting in very strong to strong damage at Hartley Bay and strong to moderate damage in Kitimat.

That earthquake, however, would be felt across the entire province of British Columbia. The report notes:

The expected effects and impacts of such an earthquake would mimic those of the 1946 magnitude 7.3 Vancouver Island earthquake, which occurred slightly west of Courtney and Campbell River. Shaking due to the 1946 earthquake was felt as far as Prince Rupert, BC to the north and Portland, Oregon to the south. In addition to knocking down 75 per cent of the chimneys in the local area, much of the earthquake-related damage was due to landslides, slumping and liquefaction

Model #3  A magnitude 6.3 Earthquake near Terrace

 The Geological Survey Canada model for an 6.3 magnitude earthquake southwest of Terrace. The possible damage is colour coded in the table below the map according to the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. The red polygon represents the area of possible rupture in the model with the star representing the epicentre. (Geological Survey of Canada)

The Geological Survey Canada model for an 6.3 magnitude earthquake southwest of Terrace. The possible damage is colour coded in the table below the map according to the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. The red polygon represents the area of possible rupture in the model with the star representing the epicentre. (Geological Survey of Canada)

On May 11, 1973, a magnitude 4.7 shallow earthquake took place about 20 kilometers south west of Terrace, on the south side of the Skeena roughly across from the Shames mountain area. The earthquake was felt up to 120 kilometers away. The report says “The event has not been associated with any geologic features in the area and little is known about its rupture process.” The model estimated the results of a larger earthquake 6.3 magnitude in the same area. The model showed there would be strong to very strong shaking in Terrace, light to moderate shaking in Kitimat and light damage elsewhere in the BC North Coast. Most of the damage would be concentrated in a 20 kilometer zone around the epicentre.

Motivation for study

It was not just potential industrial development that motivated the new studies. The discovery of that possible fault line in the lower Douglas Channel was also a factor. Studies between 2007 and 2009 revealed there were two large submarine slides on Hawkesbury Island during the mid-Holocene sometime between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago 

The cause of the two failures is still unknown but the report says “their proximity to a nearby unmapped fault-like structure suggests that the slides could have been triggered by strong ground shaking from rupture along this structure.”

Another factor was the two well-known landslides occurred in the 1970’s in the Kitimat Arm which generated tsunamis but fortunately they occurred at low tide which decreased the impact. On October 17, 1974 a submarine slide generated a 2.8 metre tsunami. The following year on April 27, 1975, a slope failure on the northeast side of Kitimat Arm (which overlapped the 1974 failure area) displaced an estimated upper limit of 26,000,000 cubic metres of material.

“Watermark observations in Kitamaat Village estimated that the tsunami generated by this slide was up to 8.2 metres high.” The report says that while the trigger of the first event is unknown; the latter event coincided with nearby construction at that time. Modelling of the 1975 slide estimates that given the right conditions the generated tsunami waves could have been as high as 11 metres.

The report also notes that numerous landslides have also been mapped by the BC Department of Forestry in an attempt to improve safety measures for forestry workers.

The report says “The culmination of these studies brings awareness to the significant natural hazards present in the fragile coastal environment of the Coast Ranges.”

Another factor is the geology of the BC coast. The granitic mountains have rugged, steep slopes dissected by an intricate fjord system and dotted with islands of lower elevation. At lower elevations the land is covered by wet, coastal hemlock forests, which could be vulnerable to ground failures whereas higher elevations are characterized by barren rock or mountain hemlock subalpine.

Table of Seismic monitoring and GPS stations in northern BC from the Geological Survey of Canada (Geological Survey of Canada)
Table of Seismic monitoring and GPS stations in northern BC from the Geological Survey of Canada (Geological Survey of Canada)

The District of Kitimat said it has “not directly studied these issues but we are aware of potential hazards.” The development department has been advised of potential issues and site concerns.

A spokesperson for Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc told Northwest Coast Energy News in an e-mail. “I have reviewed it and distributed it to the relevant department heads. We are aware that historically Terrace has been at risk for experiencing seismic activity due to its location.”

The District of Kitimat did cooperate with National Resources in finding a location for their recently installed seismic equipment.

At Harley Bay, Gitga’at First Nation CEO Ellen Torng said the Gitga’at have been “ working with NRCan on their research in the Douglas Channel and in Hawksbury. NRC has been meeting with First Nations along the coast and have conducted community sessions on their research.

“We hosted one community session here in Hartley Bay and have regular updates from their technical team when they are in the area,” Torng said.

In addition, the District of Kitimat told Northwest Coast Energy News that Community Planning & Development department also provided local land information to geoscientists in the years leading up an international study called Batholiths on land in 2009.

Batholiths are large zones of molten rock that have solidified in the earth’s crust and are believed to play a key role in the formation and growth of continents. The Coast Mountain Range has a large concentration of batholiths, which means Kitimat was an excellent place to study the earth’s crust.

The project, which involved more than 50 scientists from nine Canadian and American universities, was set up to examine how mountain belts form and change over time and why continental mountain ranges are made of granite not basalt. Seismic imaging of the crust and mantle below the mountains required deploying thousands of seismic sensors and recorders, and recorded responses to several man-made detonations. Field work was completed in July 2009, and several scientific papers and dissertations have followed.

The Heiltsuk Nation was unable to respond to a request for comment due to the ongoing crisis from the sinking of the tug Nathan E. Stewart and the resulting spill of diesel fuel and other contaminants near Bella Bella.

Related Commentary: The earthshaking difference between Enbridge and LNG

Download the Geological Survey Studies (PDF)

Baseline Assessment of Seismic Hazards in British Columbia’s North Coast 2016

North Coast Geohazards 2016 Seismology Update

Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale

(from US Geological Survey )

Intensity Shaking Description/Damage
I Not felt Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.
II Weak Felt only by a few persons at rest,especially on upper floors of buildings.
III Weak Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.
IV Light Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.
V Moderate Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.
VI Strong Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.
VII Very strong Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.
VIII Severe Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.
IX Violent Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
X Extreme Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.

Prepare now for drastic climate change, UBC study warns First Nations’ fishery, other stakeholders

Fewer salmon; many more sardines.

That’s one of the predictions from a new study from the University of British Columbia, looking at the future of the fishery on the coast.

The study concentrates on the First Nations fishery and warns that aboriginal people could face a catastrophic decline in the harvest of traditional species, especially salmon and herring roe on kelp over the next thirty years, a decline that will also have an equally devastating effect on commercial and recreational fishing.

The main cause of the decline is climate change and the warming of the coastal waters. The study projected “modest to severe declines in catch potential” for all current commercial fisheries along the coast.

The study says that for the First Nations the between $28 million to $36 million in revenue they got from fishing between 2001 and 2010 could fall by up to 90 per cent depending on how the climate changes.

A chart from the UBC study shows possible decline in fish species under different climate scenarios. (PLOS1)
A chart from the UBC study shows possible decline in fish species under different climate scenarios. (PLOS1)

One scenario calls for a decline of up to 40 per cent in chinook and pink salmon.

If there is any good news, if you can call it that, the decline will be not as bad in northern coastal waters as it will be the warmer waters near the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island. The range of some species, including salmon, herring, halibut and possibly oolichan will move to farther north along the BC Coast and into Alaskan waters.

That means in time the warming waters will also encourage an increase in other species, including sardines and some clams.

The changing oceans mean that “an increase in the relative abundance of warmer-water species was projected to lead to new or increased opportunities for commercial harvests by 2050.”

The study is urging the First Nations and other stakeholders in the British Columbia fishery to start long term planning immediately to  anticipate changes in the coming decades.

The team of scientists led by Lauren Weatherdon, a graduate student at UBC, noted that while previous studies have looked at the impact of climate change on large-scale commercial fisheries, “few efforts have been made to quantitatively project impacts on small-scale subsistence and commercial fisheries that are economically, socially and culturally important to many coastal communities.”

The study Projected Scenarios for Coastal First Nations’ Fisheries Catch Potential under Climate Change: Management Challenges and Opportunities is published in the online journal PLOS One

The study was conducted in cooperation with the BC First Nations Fisheries Council and looked its seven coastal administrative regions “forming a sample of groups with diverse marine resources, geographical locations, territorial sizes, and treaty statuses.”

Within those regions 16 First Nations participated in the study, some under their treaty councils, including the Council of the Haida Nation, the Tsimshian Nations Treaty Society (including the Gitga’at at Hartley Bay and the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum near Terrace) and the Maa-nulth First Nations. The Heiltsuk First Nation at Bella Bella participated as an independent group.

regioncatchfn

The FNFC’s administrative regions intersect with five distinct ecological regions: the North Coast, comprising the Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance; Haida Gwaii, which includes the waters surrounding the islands; the Central Coast, including Queen Charlotte Sound, Queen Charlotte Strait, and the southern tip of Hecate Strait; the Strait of Georgia; and the west coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI) .

The study says First Nations are likely to be exposed to different climate-related impacts on fisheries due to the differing ecological and biogeographical characteristics of these regions and to differing traditional and commercial harvests.

The study used a “dynamic bioclimate envelope” computer model to look at the changes to the distribution and relative abundances of the BC coastal species under two climate change scenarios, a high greenhouse gas model where society can’t curb emissions and a low greenhouse gas emission scenarios, depending on how society is able to curb the increase.

The study looked at ocean properties—including sea surface temperature, sea bottom temperature, salinity, oxygen concentration, surface action, and net primary production—using data from the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administrations’  climate-related earth system model.

Climate change will mean that current species on the BC coast will “shift polewards.”

The study showed that by 2050, there could be declines in 87 of the 98 species in the study.

Greater losses in  what the study calls “species richness” is likely to occur towards the southern coast of British Columbia, falling primarily between 48°N and 51°N. But, overall,  species richness along coastal BC will continue—only with different species.

Most significantly the study projects a decline in the overall salmon catch from 17.1 per cent to 29.2 per cent, depending on the region and climate.

All aspects of the herring fishery, including roe herring, spawn-on-kelp, and the food and bait fishery could decline between 28.1 per cent and 49.2 per cent depending on the region.

The future of the oolichan is the most uncertain. One of the models studied projected a further 37.1 per cent decline in the oolichan, while other models called for for a decline between 5 per cent and 6.8 per cent. That will depend on how well, the oolichan already threatened in most regions of British Columbia are able to adapt to warmer waters or find a way to move their range northward.

The study says white sturgeon and Pacific sardines were projected to increase in abundance under both climate change scenarios, while manila clams were projected to increase in abundance by 14.5 per cent in one of the models. The eight remaining species showed little change.

The study suggests that the southern territories (Tsawwassen, Tla’amin, and Maa-nulth First Nations) will likely see a reduction in catch potential between -15.2 per cent and -27.8 per cent depending on how the climate changes.

On the north coast. The Haida and Tsimshian First Nations and those situated along the central or north-eastern coasts of Vancouver Island (Heiltsuk and ‘Namgis First Nations)  would likely see smaller reductions in relative catch for each territory, with estimates falling between -3.2 per cent and -8.2 per cent.

The study shows that for the First Nations along the North and Central Coasts of British Columbia (Gitga’at and Haida, and Heiltsuk and ‘Namgis) there will be neutral or positive shifts in catch potential for white sturgeon, kelp greenling, and two species of perch under both scenarios.

While varying regionally, both scenarios also suggested either a slight cumulative decline or negligible change in catch potential for clams, rockfish, lingcod, and sculpins across the North and Central Coast.

One potential problem the study suggests is that fishers in southern British Columbia may, in the future, try to move north to follow the harvest, leading to potential conflicts.  The cost of travel, may, however, discourage that.

One of the recommendations from the study is that First Nations revive the traditional clam gardens.

Traditional clam beds serve as an ideal example of a method that could be applied to offset climatic impacts through internalized mechanisms, using local cultivation to generate increased productivity by enhancing native habitat rather than redirecting extraction efforts towards other regions or species. Clam gardens constructed in a manner akin to those situated near ancient settlements of the Northern Coast Salish and Laich-kwil-tach First Nations have been found to generate higher clam densities, biomass, and growth rates than non-walled beaches . These benefits were observed for Pacific littleneck clams and butter clams , two clams that are of cultural, economic, and ecological importance to the region Reinstating clam beds in First Nations’ territorial lands has been suggested as a means of simultaneously achieving local conservation and cultural objectives and may thereby provide a politically and ecologically viable option for mitigating climate-related impacts.

The most important recommendation is that the First Nations and other stakeholders start cooperating immediately to offset how the changing climate with affect the fishery:

Management of salmon and herring stocks has been highly contentious due to the myriad of stakeholders who depend upon them, which include First Nations, recreational fisheries, and commercial fisheries….

Aside from fulfilling societal needs, salmon serve as key ecological components of the Pacific Northwest Coast, functioning as the mechanisms by which nutrients are transferred from the ocean to freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems

It says the projections show that a “redistribution of fishing effort” will not “fully offset declines in salmon and herring”

attaining a state of collaboration between First Nations, DFO, and other sectors has the potential to yield beneficial ecological and political results, if implemented correctly. Parallels exist between First Nations’ traditional fisheries management approaches and “modern” approaches (e.g., spatial management, mariculture, selective fishing, fishing closures), with differences arising primarily due to diverging worldviews.

It recommends local application of First Nations’ traditional management strategies to “provide opportunities to collaboratively engage in adaptive ecosystem-based management and to coordinate efforts to attain conservation objectives.”

They give an example of how the Nisga’a Nation have ensured their equal partnership in management by employing traditional fish wheel technology to monitor and assess stocks and by leveraging traditional ecosystem-based management practices that could be applied to plan long-term objectives and management approaches.

It concludes by saying that joint-management will not only work to reduce the impact of climate change but also head off potential conflict.

Through such joint-management regimes, traditional fisheries management strategies could be applied to advance localized research directives and to reduce impacts on stocks under unprecedented environmental change. Moreover, the risk of conflict over declining resources underlines the need to establish common and equitable ground to ensure successful joint management of fisheries, and to leverage collective expertise.

Chart from the study showing which fish species will move north up the coast as the climate changes. (PLOS1)
Chart from the study showing which fish species will move north up the coast as the climate changes. (PLOS1)

The Supreme Court decision on Tsilhqot’in Rights and Title is a shot across the bow of the Alberta bound National Energy Board

The response to the Joint Review Panel decision on the Northern Gateway, beginning in December and continuing until this Canada Day,  both in the public and in the media  is sharply divided by the Rocky Mountains.

A lof of  Albertans,   most of  the energy companies and many in the media, especially the Toronto-based business press,  keep telling Canadians that the NEB is an independent, quasi-judicial body, that carefully weighs the scientific and other evidence before coming to a conclusion.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands up in Question Period and from his prepared script also claims the  JRP and NEB are independent bodies.

Most of  those writing about the  attitude of the National Energy Board have never attended a single  hearing,  As for the Joint Review,.  those from the major media who  did attend  were only there for  the opening and closing sessions.

Members of the Joint Review panel make notes at Kitamaat Village (Robin Rowland)
Members of the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, left to right, Kenneth Bateman, chair Sheila Leggett and Hans Matthews make notes at the June 25, 2012 hearings at the Haisla Recreation Centre, Kitamaat Village. A map of Douglas Channel can be seen behind the panel. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

 

In British Columbia, those attended the Northern Gateway Joint Review sessions saw a strange and arcane bureaucratic system with rules of evidence and procedure often tilted toward a proponent in the energy sector.

Those rules of evidence were created for the cosy club atmosphere of the NEB in Calgary where mostly there are friendly hearings attended only by the proponents and energy sector lawyers. Those same rules were infuriating to those in northwest British Columbia trying and failing to persuade the JRP to take seriously many of  the concerns of the region. The rules of evidence and procedure were baffling to lawyers practicing in BC; even the highly experienced lawyers from the BC Department of Justice were chewed out by the JRP in Prince George for not following proper procedures.

Most egregious was the JRP’s refusal to consider the late evidence on the growing number of humpback whales in Douglas Channel.

Humpback whale in Douglas Channel
The tail fins of a humpback whale are seen in Douglas Channel near Bish Cove, as a fishing boat speeds toward Kitimat harbour in a rain storm on Aug. 21, 2013. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The JRP seemed to believe that time stopped at the evidentiary deadline, and although it acknowledged that Northern Gateway was a 50 year project,  the panel didn’t need to know anything new.

A careful reading of the two volumes of the Joint Review Panel report and decision clearly shows that JRP finding was not, as one columnist called it, a triumph of science over emotion, but a proceeding that was biased from the outset to find in favour of Enbridge. It is clear that even though the Joint Review Panel did impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway, reading those almost 500 pages one sees time and time again that Northern Gateway’s evidence and assurances were accepted at face value, while the panel treated the evidence and testimony from opponents with a much higher level of skepticism.

Moving to Calgary

One of my sources once told me that the “NEB is nothing more than an extension of the Petroleum Club.” In the 1991 budget, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney moved the NEB headquarters from Ottawa to Calgary as a political gift to Alberta.

At that time the move was also seen as practical, Alberta was still complaining no one in Ottawa was listening to it. So if the Conservative government moved the NEB to Calgary, it would be there listening to the oil patch.  NEB offices were scattered across the country, consolidating them in Calgary seemed, at the time, to be a way of saving taxpayers’ money and enhancing internal communications.

Seen now, about 25 years later, it’s clear the NEB move from its Ottawa headquarters and regional offices to Calgary was a disaster waiting to happen. Over the past quarter century, despite its claims of independence, the NEB and its staff have become so embedded in the oil patch energy culture of Calgary that (probably subconsciously) the NEB  has shown that it is largely incapable of really taking seriously the culture of British Columbia on issues such as the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan projects. The NEB Calgary culture is also colliding,with the concerns and culture of other parts of the country as diluted bitumen pipelines head eastward.

That embedding in Alberta isn’t going to change. It might have been a good idea to move the NEB headquarters back to Ottawa but it’s too late for that. The NEB this week is moving to new quarters in Calgary  at a cost to taxpayers of a staggering $21 million.

The Conservative omnibus bills that gutted environmental protection and speed up the review process has made things much worse–at least until this week.

Now the Supreme Court has sent a shot across the bow of the full steam ahead National Energy Board, compelling the board to put much more weight on the concerns of First Nations.

The decision upholding the Tsilhqot’in claim to its traditional territory means the NEB and any future joint review panel (whether involving multiple federal agencies or federal agencies and a province) are going to have to take the concerns of First Nations and indeed all Canadians a lot more seriously—and the future of the planet as well, as described in the first part of this analysis. Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin wrote that on First Nations` traditional territory:

that it is collective title held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it.

“Future generations” is the key phrase.

Future generations could undermine that whole world view of the Joint Review Panel, since the panel so casually dismissed the fears of a major disaster on the coast, saying it was “unlikely” and could be “mitigated.”

The JRP basically had a so-what attitude to British Columbia, arguing that since parts of the British Columbia environment had already been degraded any future environmental problems would be minimal and could be “mitigated.”

Public interest

While in the introduction to its definition of the Public Interest, the JRP says

If approved and built, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project could operate for 50 years or more. Sustainable development was an important factor in our environmental assessment and our consideration of the public interest. The project would have to meet today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations.

Sounds like that might match the Chief Justice. But, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. And just a few paragraphs later, the JRP says:

Our assessment of the project’s effects on residents and communities Considering Northern Gateway’s project design, its commitments, and our conditions, we concluded that the project’s potential effects on people’s land, water, and resource use could be mitigated. We were not persuaded that construction and routine operations of the project would have a negative effect on the social fabric of communities in the project area. We also were not persuaded that the project would adversely affect the health and well being of people and communities along the route or in coastal areas. We found that the net overall economic effects of the project would be positive and would provide potential benefits and opportunities to those individuals and businesses that choose to participate in the project.

“Trust Enbridge”

The JRP’s attitude toward a major disaster was “trust Enbridge.”

We found that some level of risk is inherent in the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and that no party could guarantee that a large spill would not occur. We found that a large spill, due to a malfunction or accident, from the pipeline facilities, terminal, or tankers, is not likely.

We found that Northern Gateway has taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill through its precautionary design approach and its commitments to use innovative and redundant safety systems, such as its commitments to address human error, equipment failures, and its corporate safety culture. These commitments and all others made by the company

Oh well, the ecosystem will recover eventually—a conclusion that could be reached only by ignoring the evidence from Prince William Sound, site of the Exxon Valdez spill.

We found that, in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there will be significant adverse environmental effects, and that functioning ecosystems recover through mitigation and natural processes.

We found that a large oil spill would not cause permanent, widespread damage to the environment. The extent of the significant adverse effects would depend on the circumstances associated with the spill. Scientific research from past spill events indicates that the environment recovers to a state that supports functioning ecosystems similar to those existing before the spill. We found that, in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups.

We found that, in rare circumstances, a localized population or species could potentially be permanently affected by an oil spill. Scientific research from a past spill event indicates that this will not impact the recovery of functioning ecosystems.

In other words, some communities, probably aboriginal communities, would have be sacrificed in the public interest and the economics of Alberta while the economy of that part of British Columbia would be destroyed.

Will the JRP have to start over?

The environmental law community and First Nations leaders are already taking a look at another paragraph in the Supreme Court judgement. Paragraph 92 in lawyer speak.

Gerald Amos
At the celebration of the Supreme Court decision, on June 26, Gerald Amos welcomed the suggestion from lawyers that the ruling could force a re-examination of Northern Gateway. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

One of the many reports comes from West Coast Environmental Law which noted in an e-mail

[T]he Tsilhqot’in decision, Canada’s highest court brings home the implications of this for Enbridge and other project proponents:

Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward.

For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.

And what about the overhaul of environmental legislation in 2012 to smooth the way for pipeline and other industrial development?

The court notes: “Similarly, if legislation was validly enacted before title was established, such legislation may be rendered inapplicable going forward to the extent that it unjustifiably infringes Aboriginal title.”

Reset

In other words, the Supreme Court decision resets everything.

It could nullify the recent decision by the Prime Minister to permit the Northern Gateway to go ahead. Or it could mean, especially given the number of court challenges just to the JRP, that, in light of the Tsilhqot’in decision the panel will be ordered by a court to go back to the drawing board and reconsider its findings.

Then there are the pending challenges to the Harper decision allowing the Northern Gateway to go ahead. Sources told Northwest Coast Energy News that the first of a number of court challenges were to be filed last week. It is likely that after the holiday weekend, lawyers will be rewriting their filings and their briefs in light of the Tsilhqot’in decision and presenting the Federal Court with those challenges some time in July.

The justices of the Supreme Court did allow a public interest exemption on the use of First Nations land for a larger purpose, but there must now be genuine consultation and the public interest will likely have be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it can’t just be the whim of a prime minister with a tame, unquestioning caucus who decides what is in the public interest.

Who consults whom?

In the decision, Chief Justice McLaughlin wrote:

Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group

and later

The right to control the land conferred by Aboriginal title means that governments and others seeking to use the land must obtain the consent of the Aboriginal title holders. If the Aboriginal group does not consent to the use, the government’s only recourse is to establish that the proposed incursion on the land is justified under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Compare that again with what the JRP said. As with the environmental impact it begins by saying:

The Panel finds that the magnitude, extent, and potential impacts of this project required an extensive program of public consultation. The Panel considers thorough and effective consultation to be a process that is inclusive of, and responsive to, all potentially-affected groups and individuals.

Then the JRP says:

The Panel notes that, among potentially-affected parties, there were differing perspectives on what constitutes a thorough and effective process of consultation. There were also different views among some parties about how consultation should occur, and their roles and responsibilities during consultation.

And then:

The Panel believes that it is critical for all parties to recognize and understand their respective roles and responsibilities for achieving effective dialogue during consultation. The Panel noted the principles of thorough and effective consultation at the beginning of this chapter. The Panel finds that these principles require that a process must provide timely, appropriate, and effective opportunities for all potentially-affected parties to learn about a project, provide their comments and concerns, and to discuss how these can be addressed by the applicant.

So what does it mean?

The JRP starts off by giving Northern Gateway a slap on the wrist:

The applicant [Enbridge] must be genuinely responsive. Affected parties have an ongoing and mutual responsibility to respond to opportunities for consultation, to communicate concerns they may have, and to discuss how these can be addressed.

But then it goes on in the same paragraph:

Consultation requires trust, mutual respect, and relationship-building. All parties have an obligation to seek a level of cultural fluency, in order to better understand the values, customs, needs, and preferences of the other parties involved in the consultation process. All parties may be required to adjust their expectations in response to the information, concerns, and interests raised and considered through the process. The Panel observed that this approach did not always occur in this proceeding.

Get the phrase “all parties.” It is clear here that the JRP is taking on the First Nations and other opponents for not seeing Northern Gateway’s point of view, since it accepts, as seen below, Northern Gateway’s contention that it is doing a good job with consultation,

And the word “trust.”  Again the Alberta-bound JRP (the panel had no members from British Columbia, two from Alberta, one from Ontario)  are saying “trust Enbridge.”

Unfortunately after a decade of operating in the northwest,  and despite its spin, Enbridge has failed time and time again to establish trust with First Nations  and it has equally failed to establish trust with a significant number non-aboriginal residents of the northwest.

The companies developing LNG projects have, for the most part, established a level of trust.

The joke up here  is now so old it’s a cliche (but still unknown to the eastern media) where an LNG executive says, “We look at what Enbridge did and do the exact opposite.”

The Panel accepts Northern Gateway’s view that consultation is a process which should ensure that all parties are better informed through consultation, and that it involves being prepared to amend proposals in light of information received. In this regard, the Panel notes that Northern Gateway made numerous changes to the design and operation of the project in response to input provided by the public, landowners, governments, and stakeholders

In fact, Northern Gateway is still fumbling the ball.

It is true that Northern Gateway did change its plans and put another $500 million into the plans for the project–after a lot of public pressure  and growing controversy  during the JRP hearings over its plans.

Sheila Leggett
JRP Chair Sheila Legget during the final arguments in Terrace, June 17, 2013. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Equally telling was Northern Gateway’s dismissal in its final arguments (arguments accepted by the JRP)  that there was no earthquake hazard in the region, despite two major earthquakes at Haida Gwaii and southern Alaska just months earlier,  both of which shook Kitimat.

In the final oral arguments, Northern Gateway’s lawyer Richard Neufeld summarily dismissed the fears of the Haida and Heiltskuk First Nations about destruction of the herring spawning beds because, he said,  first, the chances of a tanker disaster were unlikely and second, even if there was a tanker disaster it was even more unlikely that it would occur during the spawning season. (Not that the spawning  season matters, herring beds in San Francisco Bay are still damaged years after a spill there).

Now with the Tsilhqot’in decision, Enbridge can no longer summarily dismiss those fears. The companies who have proposed liquefied natural gas projects  are meeting with anyone, including avowed opponents, and opening dialogues, even if both sides continue to disagree. Despite its spin, accepted by the political pundits and eastern business media, those who live in the northwest know Northern Gateway’s consultations and engagement, so far,  have mostly been with friendly groups and friendly audiences.

The Supreme Court decision is going to change that attitude in the coming weeks. If Enbridge wants Northern Gateway to go ahead, the company is going to have to genuinely engage with First Nations. Given all the damage created by Enbridge over the past decade, that engagement is unlikely to change anything.

The Supreme Court decision is going to have one more consequence.

Eventually, in a few years,  the decision will negate that stupid attitude from the conservative media and some in the business community that the people of northwestern British Columbia are against all development.  That was never true but it’s a convenient excuse for those columnists and conservatives not to question their own assumptions.

If the reporters and columnists had bothered to come up here, if the press-release dispatching business leaders had  bothered to leave their executive suites, they’d know what northwestern BC wants is responsible and sustainable development, not quick in and out profits.

The Supreme Court decision means that any future industrial development in the northwest will be much different from anything seen in the past because First Nations must be involved from the beginning.

Given its sorry track record, it is unlikely that Enbridge will be part of that development. but others will  profit, yes profit, from that failure.

In the coming years it is also likely that there will be a new approach to development from the National Energy Board after they begin to see their narrow oil-patch friendly approach and rulings struck down by the courts quoting the Tsilhqot’in decision.

Kitimat Council urges heavy turnout for North Coast Draft Marine Plan meeting

Marine planning map
Zone maps for the North Coast marine draft plan. (MAPP)

District of Kitimat Council  has urged residents to turn out in large numbers for consideration of the North Coast Draft Marine Plan at the Kitimat Valley Institute Tuesday, May 13, from 5:30 to 8:30.

In introducing the motion, Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she was worried that not enough Kitimatians, especially charter operators, boaters and fishers were aware of the meeting.

Another council member privately said he was worried that the Open House and Forum weren’t publicized enough so that the town could be checked off as having “been consulted.”

Residents can download the plan from the Mappocean website at http://mappocean.org/north-coast/draft-plan-for-input/.

MAPP stands for Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Ocean.

According to the documents the purpose of the North Coast Marine Plan “is to provide recommendations for achieving a sustainable balance between ecosystem health, social and cultural well-­‐being and economic development through an ecosystem-­‐based approach to planning and management.”

The plan is all about managing “common First Nation and provincial interests related to marine areas.”

The parners include the province and the Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS), representing the Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, Haisla, Gitga’at, and Gitxaala Nations.
According to the doucments the North Coast plan area covers 27,000 kilometres of coastline;

that is indented with deep fjords and dotted with thousands of islands. It is a region of profound beauty, significant ecological diversity and remarkable cultural richness. Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat are the largest communities in the North Coast plan area, which supports an overall population of approximately 42,000.

According to the summary of the plan:

The physical complexity of the North Coast includes a range of ecosystem types, including important estuaries that support distinct marine ecosystems and species. A diverse range of economic and community activities occur within the North Coast plan area. Commercial fisheries and associated processing facilities and logging have supported communities along the coast since the early 1900s. These activities continue to be important to the well-­‐being of coastal communities. Port activities centered around the communities of Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Stewart, and active recreational fishing and tourism sectors, continue to be strong economic drivers in the area. North Coast First Nations living in the region have distinct cultural and spiritual heritages that are intricately linked to the marine environment and the long-­‐standing sustainable use and management of marine resources.

The plan appears to overlap some areas where there have been environmental assessments of the Northern Gateway and the numerous liquified natural gas proposals.

The plan summary goes on to say:

The draft plan brings together science and Aboriginal knowledge, input from the technical staff of NCSFNSS (representing the Gitga’at, Gitxaała, Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas and Haisla Nations) and the Province. Key information and direction was provided by First Nations strategic marine use plans and existing provincial planning and policy documents.
Ecological, cultural and social and economic data sources were compiled and analysed by the joint technical team and contract support. Relevant background scientific reports and technical documents from the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) process were also used, along with the BC Marine Conservation Analysis. Additional information was drawn from government reports and publications, academic literature, industry or sector publications, discussions with experts and local knowledge. Advice was also incorporated from the North Coast Marine Plan Advisory Committee and public and stakeholder engagement.

The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area process was killed by the Harper government in the fall of 2011 . The decision to kill the PNCIMA was officially for budget reasons, but general speculation at the time was that Harper and then Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver wanted to kill PNCIMA as one way of ensuring the government could push through the Northern Gateway project. The MAPP program was set up by the province and First Nations as a reaction to Harper’s decision.

 

Draft Marine Plan Summary (pdf)

First Nations historical herring harvest offers “deep time perspective” to modern managers, SFU study says

SFU archaeologists
Iain McKechnie and Dana Lepofsky examine ancient herring fish bones that tell the story about how gigantic herring fisheries were for thousands of years in the Pacific Northwest. (SFU)

The herring, now dwindling on on the Pacific Coast, was once “superabundant” from Washington State through British Columbia to Alaska and that is a warning for the future, a new study says.

A team of scientists lead by Simon Fraser University argue that the archaeological record on the Pacific Coast offers a “deep time perspective” going back ten thousand years that can be a guide for future management of the herring and other fish species.

An archaeological study looked at 171 First Nations’ sites from Washington to Alaska and recovered and analyzed 435,777 fish bones from various species.

Herring bones were the most abundant and dating shows that herring abundance can be traced from about 10,700 years ago to about the mid-nineteenth century with the arrival of Europeans and the adoption of industrial harvesting methods by both settlers and some First Nations.

That means herring were perhaps the greatest food source for First Nations for ten thousand years surpassing the “iconic salmon.” Herring bones were the most frequent at 56 per cent of the sites surveyed and made up for 49 per cent of the bones at sites overall.

The study was published online Monday, February 17, 2014, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Simon Fraser University researchers Iain McKechnie, Dana Lepofsky and Ken Lertzman, and scientists in Ontario, Alberta and the United States are its co-authors.

The study is one of many initiatives of the SFU-based Herring School, a group of researchers that investigates the cultural and ecological importance of herring.

“By compiling the largest data set of archaeological fish bones in the Pacific Northwest Coast, we demonstrate the value of using such data to establish an ecological baseline for modern fisheries,” says Iain McKechnie. The SFU archaeology postdoctoral fellow is the study’s lead author and a recent University of British Columbia graduate.

Co-author and SFU archaeology professor Dana Lepofsky states: “Our archaeological findings fit well with what First Nations have been telling us. Herring have always played a central role in the social and economic lives of coastal communities. Archaeology, combined with oral traditions, is a powerful tool for understanding coastal ecology prior to industrial development.”

The researchers drew from their ancient data-catch concrete evidence that long-ago herring populations were consistently abundant and widespread for thousands of years. This contrasts dramatically with today’s dwindling and erratic herring numbers.

“This kind of ecological baseline extends into the past well beyond the era of industrial fisheries. It is critical for understanding the ecological and cultural basis of coastal fisheries and designing sustainable management systems today,” says Ken Lertzman, another SFU co-author. The SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management professor directs the Hakai Network for Coastal People, Ecosystems and Management.

Map of First Nations sites with fish bones
Map of First Nations’ archaeological sites with high numbers of fish bones. Herring is abundant in sites throughout the Strait of Georgia. In 71% of sites, herring makes up at least 20 per cent of the bones found at the site. (SFU/PNAS)

Heiltsuk tradition

The paper says that the abundance of herring is additionally mirrored in First Nations’ place
names and origin narratives. They give the example of the 2,400-y-old site at Nulu where herring
made up about 85 per cent of the fish found in local middens. In Heiltsuk oral tradition, it is Nulu where Raven first found herring. Another site, 25 kilometres away at the Koeye River, has only has about 10 per cent herring remains and is not associated with herring in Heiltsuk tradition.

(In an e-mail to Northwest Coast Energy News, McKechnie said “there is a paucity of archaeological data from Kitimat and Douglas Channel. There is considerable data from around Prince Rupert, the Dundas Islands and on the central coast Namu/Bella Bella/ Rivers Inlet area and in southern Haida Gwaii.”)

The study says that the archaeological record indicates that places with abundant herring were consistently harvested over time, and suggests that the areas where herring massed or spawned were more extensive and less variable in the past than today. It says that even if there were natural variations in the herring population, the First Nations harvest did not affect the species overall.

It notes:

Many coastal groups maintained family-owned locations for harvesting herring and herring roe from anchored kelp fronds, eel grass, or boughs of hemlock or cedar trees. Herring was harvested at other times of the year than the spawning period when massing in local waters but most ethnohistorical observations identify late winter and springtime spawning as a key period of harvest for both roe and fish.

The herring and herring roe were either consumed or traded among the First Nations.

Sustainable harvests encouraged by building kelp gardens,wherein some roe covered fronds were not collected, by minimizing noise and movement during spawning events, and by elaborate systems of kin-based rights and responsibilities that regulated herring use and distribution.

Industrial harvesting

Industrial harvesting and widespread consumption changed all that. Large numbers of herring were harvested to for rendering to oil or meal. By 1910, the problem was already becoming clear. In that year British Columbia prohibited the reduction of herring for oil and fertilizer. There were reports at that time that larger bays on the Lower Mainland were “being gradually deserted by the larger schools where they were formerly easily obtained.”

But harvesting continued, in 1927 the fishery on eastern Vancouver Island, Columbia, processed
31,103 tons of herring. The SFU study notes that that is roughly twice the harvest rate for 2012 and would also be about 38 per cent of the current herring biomass in the Strait of Georgia.
In Alaska, reduction of herring began in 1882 and reached a peak of 75,000 tons in 1929.

As the coastal populations dwindled, as with other fisheries, the emphasis moved to deeper water. By the 1960s, the herring populations of British Columbia and Washington had collapsed. Canada banned herring reduction entirely in 1968, Washington followed in the early 1980s.

In the 1970s, the herring population off Japan collapsed, which opened up the demand for North American roe, which targeted female herring as they were ready to spawn. That further reduced the herring population so that the roe fishery is now limited to just a few areas including parts of the Salish Sea and off Sitka and Togiak, Alaska.

The First Nations food, social and ceremonial herring fishery continues.

Government fishery managers, scientists, and local and indigenous peoples lack consensus on the cumulative consequences of ongoing commercial fisheries on herring populations. Many First Nations, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and other local fishers, based on personal observations and traditional knowledge, hypothesize that local herring stocks, on which they consistently relied for generations, have been dramatically reduced and made more difficult to access following 20th century industrial fishing

Deep time perspective

The SFU study says that some fisheries managers are suggesting that the herring population has just shifted to other locations and other causes may be climate change and the redounding of predator populations.

But the study concludes, that:

Our data support the idea that if past populations of Pacific herring exhibited substantial variability, then this variability was expressed around a high enough mean abundance such that there was adequate herring available for indigenous fishers to sustain their harvests but avoid the extirpation of local populations.

These records thus demonstrate a fishery that was sustainable at local and regional scales over millennia, and a resilient relationship between harvesters, herring, and environmental change that has been absent in the modern era.

Archaeological data have the potential to provide a deep time perspective on the interaction between humans and the resources on which they depend.

Furthermore, the data can contribute significantly toward developing temporally meaningful ecological baselines that avoid the biases of shorter-term records.

Other universities participating in the study were the University of British Columbia, University of Oregon, Portland State University, Lakehead University, University of Toronto, Rutgers University and the University of Alberta.

 

RELATED:

BC First Nations Opposition to Commercial Herring Fisheries supported by DFO

Fisheries minister ignored advice from own scientists

Oil spill caused “unexpected lethal impact” on herring, study shows

The Empire Strikes Back I: Enbridge takes on First Nations, small intervenors

Douglas Channel
Douglas Channel at the site of the proposed Enbridge marine terminal, June 27, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Enbridge is striking back against the First Nations and intervenors who oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline and marine terminal projects by filing questions that those groups must answer as part of the Joint Review Process.

On May 11, 2012, Enbridge filed questions with 24 organizations,  and from the questions, it appears that Enbridge isn’t  just building a strictly legal case in their favour but are preparing to try and discredit opponents.

Enbridge’s questions are part of the legal process. For months, First Nations and intervenors have been filing a whole series of questions asking for clarification of items in the Enbridge’s filings on the project with Joint Review Process and Enbridge has the legal right to ask the First Nations and intervenors to clarify their positions.

However, the difference is that Enbridge is a giant corporation which can afford to spend millions of dollars on both the approval process as well as the current nationwide advertising process, while some of the intervenors are made up of volunteers or retirees working on their own time. Sources among the intervenors have been saying for months that they believe that Enbridge is following a perceived policy of working to wear down the opponents so much they burn out and drop out of the process.

A large proportion of the questions Enbridge is demanding that First Nations and intervenors answer are overtly political, rather than technical responses to their filings.

In an apparent escalation of its campaign against its opponents, Enbridge is using the Joint Review process to ask intervenors about funding, naming such hot button organizations such as Tides Canada, which is under attack by the Harper government.  Enbridge is also  questioning  the “academic credentials” of numerous intervenors and commenters, even though the Joint Review Panel has spent most of the past seven months asking people to comment based on “local knowledge,” leaving the technical questions to the documents filed with the JRP

Some key questions directed at both the Haisla and Wet’suwet’en First Nations seem to indicate that Enbridge is preparing to build both a legal and probably a public relations case questioning the general, but not unanimous support for liquified natural gas projects in northwestern BC, by saying “Why not Northern Gateway,” as seen in this question to the Haisla Nation.

Please advise as to whether similar measures would be requested by the Haisla First Nation to deal with construction-related impacts of the Northern Gateway Project.

Black Swan

A series of questions to the coalition known as the Coastal First Nations questions the often heard assertion that an oil spill on the BC coast is “inevitable,” and Enbridge appears to be prepared to argue that spills are not inevitable. Enbridge asks Coastal First Nations about a study that compared the bitumen that could be shipped along the coast with the proposed LNG projects.

Please provide all environmental and risk assessment studies, including studies of “Black Swan” events, conducted by the Coastal First Nations or any of its members in respect of the LNG projects referred to.

Enbridge is referring to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s now widely known “theory of high-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology.”

It is Black Swan events that most of the people of the northwest coast fear when it comes to all the major energy projects, but if as Taleb says they are hard-to-predict and rare, how can the studies Enbridge is requesting actually predict those disasters?

Enbridge’s questions to the Haisla Nation runs for 28 pages and many of those questions are political, not technical, including asking for details of the Haisla support for the various Kitimat liquified natural gas projects and who may be funding the Haisla participation in the Joint Review Process. Many technical questions around the questions of “acceptable risk” and it appears, despite the fact Enbridge officials have listened to the Haisla official presentation at Kitamaat Village last January and the speeches of Haisla members this week at the pubic comment hearings, that Enbridge is preparing to use a paper-based or Alberta-based concept of acceptable risk as opposed to listening to the First Nation that will be most directly affected by any disaster in the Kitimat harbour or estuary.

(See The Enbridge Empire Strikes Back II The Haisla “fishing expedition”)

A series of questions seems to negate Enbridge’s claim that it has the support of many First Nations along the pipeline route because Enbridge is asking for details of agreements that First Nations have reached with the Pacific Trails Pipeline. Enbridge has consistently refused to release a list of the First Nations it claims has agreements with the company, but in the questions filed with the JRP, Enbridge is asking for details of agreements First Nations in northern BC have reached with the Pacific Trails Pipeline.

Funding demands

For example, while Enbridge is refusing to name all the backers of the pipeline for reasons of corporate confidentiality, the company is asking who may be funding the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in its appearances before the Joint Review Panel, including the US-based foundations named by right-wing blogger Vivian Krause,  (note Krause recently declared victory and suspended her blog) right-wing columnists and the Harper cabinet:

Please confirm that the Office of the Wet’suwet’en has received participant funding from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to participate in the Joint Review Panel (“JRP”) proceeding.

Please advise as to the amount of participant funding received to date from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Please advise whether or not the Office of the Wet’suwet’en has received funding within the
last 5 years from Tides Canada, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, or any other similar foundations, to oppose the Northern Gateway Project or to oppose oil sands projects in general.

If so, please provide the amount of funding received from each foundation.

In the case of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Enbridge is asking for details, including a membership list.

Please provide a description of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Does the Raincoast Conservation Foundation prepare Annual Reports? If so, please provide the most recently published Annual report available.

If the Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a collection of like-minded individuals, please list its members.

Did the Raincoast Conservation Foundation apply for and receive participant funding in this proceeding? If so, how much was received?

While many of Enbridge’s question to the RainCoast Foundation are technical, the company which is currently conducting a multi-million dollar public relations campaign in favour of the pipeline, asks:

Please confirm that the “What’s at Stake? study” was prepared for use as a public relations tool, to advocate against approval of the Northern Gateway.

Enbridge also appears to be gearing up for personal attacks on two of the most vocal members of Kitimat’s Douglas Channel Watch, Murray Minchin and Cheryl Brown, who have been appearing regularly before District of Kitimat council to oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline.

 

Murray Minchin
Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch addresses protesters at Kitimat City Centre Mall, Sunday, June 24, 2012, He talked about how he has learned as he goes along in examining Enbridge documents (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Credentials

On Murray Minchin, Enbridge asks:

Written Evidence Regarding Proposed Liquid Petroleum Pipelines from the proposed Nimbus Mountain West Portal to the Kitimat River Estuary submitted by Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch…. Supplemental Written Evidence Photographic Evidence Regarding Proposed Liquid Petroleum Pipelines from Nimbus Mountain to the Kitimat River Estuary submitted by Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch….

Mr. Minchin provides extensive opinion relative to geotechnical and other technical matters. Request: Please provide Mr. Minchin’s curriculum vitae which includes his education, training and employment history, to demonstrate his qualifications to provide geotechnical and other technical opinions that appear….

Minchin is one of Enbridge’s strongest opponents in Kitimat and in his various appearances (the latest at the anti-Enbridge demonstration in Kitimat on Sunday, June 24, 2012, Minchin has told the audiences that he is self-taught and has spent much of his spare time over the past few years studying the documents Enbridge has filed with the JRP.

As for Cheryl Brown, a vocal critic of the Enbridge Community Advisory Board process, Enbridge has filed a long series of questions about her involvement with the CAB, including asking how many meetings she has attended (see document below)

Two of Enbridge’s questions about Brown stand out

Has Ms. Brown offered a suggestion for a speaker that would have provided a differing viewpoint from those of Northern Gateway?

Many people in Kitimat, not just the outspoken members of Douglas Channel Watch, say they do not trust the Community Advisory Board process. When the CAB held a meeting recently to discuss marine safety, a meeting that was heavily advertised in Kitimat Terrace area, the CAB facilitators ( from a Vancouver -based company) attempted to bar the media, including this reporter, from this “public” meeting, until apparently overruled by Enbridge’s own pubic relations staff. On the other hand, everytime Douglas Channel Watch has appeared before the District of Kitimat Council to request a public forum on Gateway issues, DCW has always insisted that Enbridge be invited to any forum, along with DCW and independent third parties.

Ms. Brown states that Enbridge has not addressed the hard questions. Please confirm that Northern Gateway responded to questions put forth by the Douglas Channel Watch in Letters to the Editor in both the Kitimat Northern Sentinel and Terrace Standard in August of 2009.

Here Enbridge appears to be basing its case on one letter to the editor that appeared in local papers three years ago. During the public comment hearings that the JRP held at Kitamaat Village earlier this week, numerous people testified time and time again that Enbridge was failing to answer major questions about the pipeline and terminal, by saying that those questions would be answered later, once the project is approved.

Bird watching

In one series of questions, Enbridge is demanding a professional level database from the Kitimat Valley Naturalists, the local birdwatching group. Quoting a submission by the naturalists group, Enbridge asks

Paragraph 2.2, indicates that the Kitimat Valley Naturalists has birding records for the estuary for over 40 years and that Kitimat Valley Naturalists visits the estuary at least 100 times per year.

Paragraph 2.3 indicates the Kitimat Valley Naturalists have local expertise in birds of the Kitimat River estuary as well as other plants and animals that utilize those habitats.

Request: To contribute to baseline information for the Kitimat River estuary and facilitate a detailed and comprehensive environmental monitoring strategy, please provide the long term database of marine birds in and adjacent to the Kitimat River estuary, with a focus on data collected by the Kitimat Valley Naturalists in recent years, and where possible, the methodology or survey design, dates, weather and assumptions for the data collection.

Today the Kitimat Valley Naturalists, three local retirees, Walter Thorne, Dennis Horwood and April Macleod filed this response with the JRP:

Northern Gateway has specifically requested the long-term database of birds occurring over many years within the Kitimat River Estuary. The data we have collected includes monthly British Columbia Coastal Water Survey (BC CWS) and yearly Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). The data from
these bird counts are available on the web or in print form.

For access to BC CWS enter http://www.bsc-eoc.org

For access to CBC data, enter http://birds.audubon.org

Historical results for CBC counts have also been published by the journal American Birds. The earliest CBC count for Kitimat was 1974.

In regard to the long-term database, we have significant numbers of records for the foreshore of the Kitimat River Estuary. The number increases when the larger estuary perimeter is considered. These cover a 40-year period with the majority in the last 20 years. We would be willing to provide this information in a meaningful format.

The Kitimat Valley Naturalists, however, lack the expertise or financial ability to convert the data into a format that would address Northern Gateway’s interest in methodology, survey design, dates, weather, and assumptions for data collection.

Alternatively, we do have access to a consulting firm, which is willing to analyze our data and convert it to a useable and practical design. We assume, since this is a considerable undertaking in both time and cost, that Northern Gateway would be willing to cover the associated fees.

We look forward to hearing back from Northern Gateway and pursuing this with a budget proposal.

Northwest Coast Energy News consulted data management experts who estimated that complying with the Enbridge request would likely cost between $100,000 and $150,000.

First Nations

Some Wet’suwet’en houses have opposed the Pacific Trails Pipeline, and while negotiations with Apache Corporation are continuing, Enbridge is asking the First Nation for details of what is happening with that pipeline.

Is it the position of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en that each First Nation whose traditional territory is traversed by the proposed pipeline has a veto on whether it is approved or refused?

Please confirm that the Office of the Wet’suwet’en opposed approval of the Pacific Trails Pipeline (also known as the Kitimat Summit Lake Looping Project).

Does the Office of the Wet’suwet’en continue to oppose construction of the Pacific Trails Pipeline?

Have the First Nations who are proposing to participate as equity owners in the Pacific Trails Pipeline Project advised the Office of the Wet’suwet’en that they accept that the Office of the Wet’suwet’en has a right to veto approval and construction of that Project?

Please confirm that the First Nations holding an equity ownership position or entitlement in the Pacific Trails Pipeline Project (also known as the Kitimat-Summit Lake Looping Project) include:
• Haisla First Nation
•Kitselas First Nation
•Lax Kw’alaams Band
•Lheidli T’enneh Band
•McLeod Lake Indian Band
•Metlakatla First Nation
•Nadleh Whut’en First Nation
•Nak’azdli Band
•Nee Tahi Buhn Band
•Saik’uz First Nation
•Skin Tyee First Nation
•Stellat’en First Nation
•Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation
•West Moberly First Nation
•Wet’suwet’en First Nation

The majority of questions filed with the Coast First Nations are technical challenges to studies filed by the coalition. Enbridge also filed questions with the Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk Nations and the Metis Nation of Alberta.

(Disclosure: The author, who is also a photographer, sometimes accompanies members of the Kitimat Valley Naturalists to photograph birds during the time they are doing the counts)

Enbridge Cover letter to JRP Information Requests to Intervenors (pdf)

Information Request Coastal First Nations (pdf)

Information Request Haisla (pdf)

Information Request Douglas Channel Watch (pdf)

Information Request Living Oceans Society (pdf)

Information Request Raincoast Conservation (pdf)

Information Request Wet’suwet’en (pdf)

Information Request Kitimat Valley Naturalists (pdf)

Kitimat Valley Naturalists response to Enbridge (pdf)

 

Nuxalk First Nation withdraws as Joint Review intervenor, Heiltsuk hearings end with more controversy

The Nuxalk First Nation at Bella Coola has withdrawn from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review process. Both the hereditary chiefs and elders and the elected council say the federal government “has already predetermined its approval of the project.”

A release from the Nuxalk says their withdrawal “withdrawal is another sign that the federal government is mishandling its relationship with First Nations, including its statements last week that it will change the rules for the Enbridge pipeline hearings retroactively, which is unfair and will likely further compromise the regulatory review.”

“There is no honour in the federal Crown’s approach to consulting with First Nations on the Enbridge project,” says Andrew Andy, the elected Chief of the Nuxalk Nation. “Recent statements make it clear that the Prime Minister has already decided to approve the super-tanker project that would violate First Nations’ Title and Rights and put our coastal waters at risk of a major oil spill.”

The Nuxalk support the decision of other Nations to oppose the process through the Joint Review Panel, but say the review is not being done in good faith and has been undermined by repeated and controversial public statements by the Prime Minister and Natural Resources Minister that suggest a predetermined approval.

“Despite our serious concern about this process, including the lack of any decision-making role for First Nations, we entered the process in good faith,” says Andy. “The government’s disrespectful behaviour these past months makes clear that our good faith is not being returned.”

“How can we participate in a process driven by a government that has labelled us ‘socially dysfunctional’?” says Charlie Nelson, a Hereditary Chief of the Nuxalk Nation, referring to recent controversial statements by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. “Where is the honour in the Crown stating that it’s prepared to violate our constitutionally-protected Title and Rights before the work of gathering information on the scope of infringement is even done?”

The Nuxalk say the Joint Review Panel has no mandate to consult with First Nations, and there has been no clarity provided by the federal government about how it will consult on issues that fall outside of the Joint Review Panel process.

Meanwhile, hearings in Bella Bella ended on Thursday afternoon, with more controversy as they did at when they opened late on Tuesday. Hearings were delayed after a peaceful community demonstration Sunday against the proposed Enbridge project with drumming and singing at the airport. That delay cut one and half days from the hearings and as they ended today, numerous tweets from Bella Bella described how the Joint Review Panel told the Heiltsuk Chief Counsellor Marilyn Slett to “move on” after which some audience members walked out in protest. Later tweets said that a number of speakers were not able to testify and those tweets called that “shameful.” The tweets say that demonstrators followed Joint Review Panel and staff as they left for the Bella Bella airport.

JRP hearings to resume in Bella Bella Tuesday, Heiltsuk group says

A notice posted on the Heiltsuk Oppose Heiltsuk Oppose Oil Pipelines and Super Oil Tankers Facebook page says the Joint Review Hearings will resume at Bella Bella on Tuesday.

The notice, posted about 4 p.m. Pacific says

As you may have already heard, the JRP has since cancelled our first day of hearings that were supposed to start today, Monday, April 2nd, 2012, due to reason unknown!

We have since received notice that the hearings will commence at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012. However, we are not sure whether or not the time will be made up to allow all our Heiltsuk Warriors (Witnesses) to present their evidence. Stay tuned for more details!

The Joint Review hearings were cancelled for Monday due to security concerns after the panel members and staff were met by protoestors at Bella Bella airport on Sunday.

Members of the Joint Review Panel met with Heiltsuk elders and leaders during the day to come to an agreement for resumption of the hearings.

So far there has been no confirmation of the resumption of hearings from the Joint Review staff.