Georgia Straight, “Oil Spill”, May 6, 2014

Oil spill would be “devastating” to birds in Burrard Inlet, biologist says

by STEPHEN HUI on MAY 6, 2014 at 1:20 PM
 

The surf scoter, seen off the Stanley Park seawall, is one of the seabird species that could be affected by an oil spill in Burrard Inlet.
STEPHEN HUI

ONE DROP OF oil can break down a bird’s waterproofing. Accordingly, Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline and increase tanker traffic in Vancouver Harbour is a “huge” concern to biologist Robyn Worcester.

The conservation programs manager for the Stanley Park Ecology Society told the Georgia Straight that once-prominent seabird species such as the common loon, pigeon guillemot, and western grebe are already on the decline in Burrard Inlet.

“These are all winter birds,” Worcester said by phone from her Vancouver home. “If they lose their waterproofing, they could get cold and die very quickly. So a large-scale spill would be devastating. There’s lots of evidence to show that this kind of spill would last a very long time.”

Together with Karen Barry of Bird Studies Canada, Worcester will give a lecture tonight (May 6) about the state of marine birds in Burrard Inlet, as part of Vancouver Bird Week. She noted that English Bay and Burrard Inlet are designated as an important bird area.

According to Worcester, more seabird species have seen decreases rather than increases in their local populations over the past few decades. Particularly, species that feed on small fish have suffered the most pronounced declines.

“That’s concerning, and I think we all have a responsibility to help protect the animals that share the water that we also depend on,” Worcester said.

Worcester noted that threats to birds in Burrard Inlet range from large-scale (climate change, ocean acidification, and overfishing) to small-scale (off-leash dogs and standup paddleboarders).

SPES is set to participate as an intervenor in the National Energy Board’s upcoming public hearing on the Trans Mountain expansion project. Worcester stressed that a major oil spill in Burrard Inlet would “severely” impact seabirds.

“Their food source would be destroyed, their habit would be destroyed, and obviously birds that were directly affected would also be killed,” Worcester said.

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