A group of scientists has written to federal environment minister Steven Guilbeault, urging him to reject the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s (VFPA) proposed Roberts Bank Terminal II (RBT2) project.
The letter, co-authored by 12 scientists with expertise on Chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales and the Fraser River Estuary, cite the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency’s (now the Impact Assessment Agency) report that found RBT2 will have significant adverse and cumulative effects on certain Fraser Chinook salmon populations and Southern Resident killer whales.
The letter also expresses concern for VFPA’s reliance on ‘habitat offsetting’ as a mechanism to compensate for the loss of habitat incurred to Chinook salmon. The scientists cited a study that found only 33 percent of previous habitat compensation projects implemented by the VFPA have achieved their intended ecological outcomes to offset adverse effects from their projects. A Canadian-wide study of fish habitat compensation projects found that it was simply not possible to compensate for some habitats.
“The Fraser estuary is the most ecologically sensitive and threatened ecosystem in the entire Fraser River,” said Ken Ashley, director of the Rivers Institute at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. “After experiencing myriad developmental pressures for over a century, it now faces an uncertain future due to continuing threats from large developmental proposals such as RBT2.”
The scientists say there is a clear biological rationale for rejecting the project if the recovery of Chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales is a priority for the federal government.
“We evaluated the threats facing 102 species of conservation concern in the Fraser River Estuary and found that pursuing projects that further reduce the habitat for these at-risk species will only further their decline. Our research shows that species recovery requires implementing cost-effective conservation-based science that is supported by a management plan and co-governance,” said Tara Martin, professor in the Forest and Conservation Science Department at the University of British Columbia.