Campbell River British Columbia at Risk for Oil Spills

Would you like oil with that?

 Top: Early morning looking toward Quadra Island Top Rt. Totem figures holding up roof of gathering place. Many small fishers depend on clean unpolluted waters.Rt. end of building depicts Sea Snake(serpent) First Nation Art.
Left. Art work along esplanade. Based on war helmet.
Bottom: Welcome figure on sea side of FN shopping centre

Campbell River is just one of many small coastal towns at risk for oil spills. While the government in Ottawa debates the merits of oil pipelines and proposed increase of tanker traffic in the hundreds per year, these small coastal towns remain vulnerable.

This little town located on the northern and eastern coast of Vancouver Island has seen its ups and downs over the years. A hydro-electric dam started in the late 40s brought temporary work for men. Logging and fishing were big money makers through the following decades. But once the big timbers were cut and easy fishing played out the cycle of boom and bust continued.
Recently the pulp mill closed its doors.

One employment stayed constant throughout these cycles. People with money in their jeans would come to try to catch the king salmon. These giant Chinook salmon became famous in the ‘20s when a British journalist wrote about his 70 pound(31.75 kilos) fish that he caught in the area. The publicity earned for Campbell River the title of Salmon Capital of the World.

In order to set themselves apart, the Tyee Club was formed in 1924 which set out strictly maintained standards. One of the more famous demands is that the fisher must catch his trophy from a boat that is paddled or rowed. No motors are allowed.

For hundreds of other who flock to the area during the salmon runs as well as the commercial fishery in the area, modern equipment is allowed.

Whale watching as well as other large mammal watching provides more with a living.
Open net salmon farming has become a large employer for the area. While the practise is controversial, it too needs clean, cold water to thrive. Shell fishery thrives in the area as well.

Any time that a boat on the water uses liquid fuel to run the motors there is a danger of spilling some into the water. Recently a small spill of diesel fuel off the north end of the island polluted a large area used by the indigenous people living there. Aside from consuming the shellfish themselves, they estimated that they made around $150 000 each year harvesting on a sustainable basis. Cleanup crews failed to keep the oil slick off the clam beds and now they cannot be harvested for an indeterminate number of years. Yet this was a tiny spill in comparison to what a petroleum tanker carries.

Currently there is a proposal to triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline which currently terminates at Metro Vancouver. Hundreds of tankers per year would be transiting the local waters. Standards for the tankers would fail to prevent a mucky mess of the shores and devastate many small towns in this beautiful part of the province.

It takes money to run a modern country. Oil is a money maker for some private citizens as well. Canadians need to ask if the inevitable spills should trump the rights of the “little people” who live lightly on the shores.

Further Reading:
The Tyee Club                              
Conversations for Responsible EconomicDevelopment                 


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