The Illusion about our efforts to clean up oil spills

Andrew Nikiforuk has written an article in the Hakai magazine which supports one of our arguments in the work we did as intervenors in the National Energy Board Hearings on the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain Extension Pipeline project. This article profiles how we are being duped by oil companies and governments into believing that oil spills can be cleaned up and that oiled birds and mammals can be rehabilitated.

“And that’s where the state of marine oil spill response sits today: it creates little more than an illusion of a cleanup. Scientists — outside the oil industry — call it “prime-time theatre” or “response theatre.””

HakaiinstWhy Do We Pretend to Clean Up Ocean Oil Spills?




dilbitAlso see:

Oil Sands Dilbit Causes Developmental Problems in Fish


Six Problems with Beach Fires in Metchosin

It would be nice if we all were careful, cleaned up after ourselves and were considerate of others and the environment. Unfortunately the annual spring and early summer problem of Fires on Metchosin beaches provides much evidence to the contrary.  Those of us who frequent the area have observed a deterioration in the situation in the last few years on Taylor and Weir’s beach. This spring with the stair access to Wittty’s lagoon cut off and the announcement on local media that beach fires are not allowed in other municipalities but it was still okay  to have them in Metchosin, the problem has reached a tipping point.

Ed Note: Metchosin Council finally banned all beach fires in a meeting in mid-June this year.


The above was just part of last weeks legacy on Taylor Beach:

A quick review of the internet points out that :
Many Pre-2005 pallets have been treated with Methyl Bromide prior to exporting (part of phytosanitary regulations before import/export shipping to reduce risk of importing wood diseases and pests from country to country). The Methyl Bromide treated pallets should be disposed of as hazardous waste since it is dangerous to both people and the environment.  Newer pallets are heat treated, but don’t rule out mildicides ( for fungal inhibition) applied to some pallets.


It saddens us to see people chopping or sawing up  large logs  or dragging them whole onto fires . These logs,  some well over 50 years old provide habitat for beach creatures and being moveable, can absorb wave energy and help to stabilize the backshore from increasing erosion.

Why do people continue to burn driftwood when there is clear evidence that it can produce toxic substances?

This from the EPA in the US:

  • Never burn household garbage or cardboard. Plastics, foam and the colored ink on magazines, boxes, and wrappers produce harmful chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn ocean driftwood, plywood, particle board, or any wood with glue on or in it. They all release toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood.

” The driftwood found on B.C. beaches may seem like an economically attractive heat source. Driftwood, however, is laden with salt, and burning it releases sodium and chlorine ions. The potential exists for these chlorine ions to form chlorinated compounds such as dioxins and furans, which are suspected human carcinogens. They may also corrode your stove and venting system.”

3. THE “I’VE GOT TO HAVE MY OWN PIECE OF THE BEACH” PROBLEM:2015-03-23multiplefirepitsjpg


Why is it not okay to use someone’s old firepit instead of building a new one a few feet away, creating another mess?
Last week I counted 40 old and recent firepits from this season along a stretch of no more than 200 metres of Taylor Beach.






Probably before the end of summer I will get a picture of the melted broken bottles and aluminum beer cans left in fire-pits, but for now this will have to do. The hazard this poses for children and animals is unacceptable. Winter storms will distribute any material left like in mounds and pits  over the beach, posing an unsuspecting hazard.


gf-sandlance-july1320154In the photo below, the darkened sand area, a diameter of around 4 metres or 12 feet , is where there will be complete sterilization of the sand and death of any organisms living within it. Sand is not an inert environment to begin with. It can have a complex ecosystem of  bacteria and invertebrates which contribute to decomposition and nutrient cycling , as well as a habitat for forage fish.



Darkened sand shows area of influence of a beach fire.


Perhaps this is the biggest problem that threatens to have a huge impact on life in Metchosin. The continuity of dry brush and forest from the beaches to backyards is a real threat for wildfires. Fanned by winds, fires that escape or were not completely extinguished and left unattended could cause untold damage to residents and property in the district.

So one shouldn’t complain unless they are prepared to do something about it. Here are my recommendations:
1. Have fires in designated locations only . Why not install a set of  metal container pits for the duration of the fire season, and all wood must be brought to the beach by the fire-maker.. ie no in-situ burning of driftwood (see reasons above)
2. The allowed season for fires must be regulated by conditions not by a  standard date like the start of a certain month.
3. Absolutely no burning of old habitat logs.
4. Absolutely no leaving of trash including bottles or cans in fires..( Pack it in pack it out. )
5. All fires to be extinguished by water. ( Everyone needs a bucket with them.)
6. Make very clear signage at the end of Taylor road… and if necessary for a few weekends have volunteers sit there and hand out information pamphlets on sustainability of the values of the beach.
7. Note that municipalities can regulate: from
8.. As a taxpayer I keep this in the back of my mind:  from the BC Forest Service website :
  • Q: Are people entitled to build fires on the beach?
    A: Yes, people have the right to build fires on the beach as long as they are in compliance with either their local government bylaws or the Wildfire Act & Regulations. If Campfires are restricted in this area, then a beach campfire fire is also prohibited.
  • Q: What are the rules that apply to having a campfire (a half a meter by a half a meter used for recreational or first nation’s ceremonial purposes)?
    A: A person may light, fuel or use a Campfire when:
     the person is not prohibited from doing so under another enactment;
     to do so is safe and is likely to continue to be safe;
     the person establishes a fuel break around the burn area;  while the fire is burning, the person ensures that
     the fuel break is maintained, and
     the fire is watched and patrolled by a person to prevent the escape of fire and the person is equipped with at least o one fire fighting hand tool, or o 8 litres of water in one or more containers;
     before leaving the area, the person ensures that the fire is extinguished.
  • Q: What are some safety guidelines when conducting a beach fire?
    A: Ensure that you comply with regulations and/or bylaws in your area regarding fire size and safety measures. Always check whether there are any bans or restrictions in effect, and pay close attention to wind conditions before lighting a fire. Keep fires at a reasonable distance from flammable materials and never leave them unattended. As hot coals can easily reignite: use water to extinguish the fire and ensure that it is cold to the touch before leaving it unattended.Q: If a fire is started illegally, who is liable for the suppression costs it if it escapes?
    A: If the fire is started within an organized area, costs are assumed by the fire department (local government) and area tax payers. If it is started outside of a fire department’s jurisdiction (crown land), the BC Forest Service responds and assumes costs. If the person who started the fire is caught and found to be in non-compliance with regulations, there are penalties that can be enforced, such as restorative justice, ticketing (fines), cost recovery, or criminal prosecution in serious cases.“Local governments have the power to set bylaws to control (back)yard burning, campfires and beach fires within their boundaries. A growing number of municipalities have passed their own bylaws that ban backyard burning and other kinds of burning. For more information on municipal burning bylaws, see Inventory of Air Quality Bylaws in British Columbia for Anti-Idling, Open Burning and Wood-Burning Appliances (PDF: 1017 KB/197 pages), and Review of Open Burning Bylaws on Vancouver Island (PDF: 150 KB/25 pages).”

Some other references :

BC Govt Regulations:

District of Metchosin Burning Regulations:

Metchosin FIre Department Burning regulations:

Colwood Burning Regulations:

Central Saanich Burning Regulations:

Saanich Beach Fire regulations:

Comox Valley Regional District:

Newport Beach Fire Problems


Who pays for the real costs of the Oil Industry

We often hear that we need to extract oil and ship it overseas in order to support “Canadian jobs and the Economy”  I thought I would provide in this post a few links here to some references worth noting on the subsidization of the fossil fuel industry in Canada . GF

1. In July 2014, The Pembina Institute published a report titled: Fossil Fuel Subsidies: An analysis of federal financial support to Canada’s oil sector.
Published July 10, 2014 by Sarah Dobson, Amin Asadollahi

“The oil industry provides economic benefits in the short and medium term, but more permanent external benefits are less certain and are countered by the sector’s environmental impacts. This paper provides an analysis of federal financial support for the oil sector as well as recommendations on policy options. It recognizes progress made by Canada in phasing out certain subsidies, while noting that remaining federal direct and indirect support measures are largely inefficient and unnecessary.”

2. Fossil Fuels – At What Cost? Government Support for Upstream Oil Activities in Three Canadian Provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland & Labrador

Abstract:    Continue reading

Lost and Found on Taylor Beach


Tim Hortons coffee cups, complete with non-biodegradable plastic lids . Neatly stashed in the logs.

In the past few weeks a few objects have been “mistakenly” left by visitors  to Taylor Beach. There are several local residents who always help to keep the beach clean but regularly encounter these possessions.  We do hope that future visitors aren’t so forgetful.


Non-biodegradable plastic bag , neatly tied, complete with dog excrement inside.


The problem with plastic rope


This image was taken after two walks on half of Taylor beach after a set of swells from the East in the past week. G. Fletcher photo.

It may not be obvious to the casual beach stroller, but the bits and pieces of plastic rope one sees occasionally can be a real hazard in the ocean. When the plastic breaks down ( It never really breaks down, it just turns into smaller pieces) it can be taken up into the gills of fish and invertebrates, where it can eventually become lethal.

Rather sad when you know that all these pieces of rope could have been disposed of properly instead of just being thrown carelessly into the ocean.

Solution: require all  plastic rope used in the marine environment to be completely biodegradable after a certain length of time in the water or on a beach.

An additional insideous problem here is the small ring band of white plastic strapping on the right . This kind of band used in bundling fishing nets is what we see impaled on the necks of sealions.

Check out images of the results on the Race Rocks website .

Also see Entanglement

Interesting Reference: on Plastic Pollution Accumulating in Oceanic Gyres.

USA Reference #1: Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment Synopsis. GWU

This is the first in a series of Risk Assessment publications from US  sources that I will be highlighting here as they have great implications for the risk of oil spills on Metchosin shores:

Dr. J.Rene van Doop and Dr. Jason R.W. Merrick developed a vessel traffic movement baseline based on 2010 data and used that to model predictions for the future given the following projected inceases per year in Tanker Traffic:

487 gateway Bulk Carriers
348 Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (Kinder Morgan)
348 Delta Port Carriers
67 Delta Port Container Ships +Bunkering Barges
1250= Total projected increase per year


Update on the Kinder Morgan TMX National Energy Board Hearings

Our coastline in Metchosin is highly exposed to the potential risks from the increase in tanker traffic that will come if the Kinder Morgan/ Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion s allowed to proceed. (400 Aframax size tankers per year) In order to provide access to the Information requests from the over 400 intervenors which are available on the NEB website, the following link is provided. The Board of the Friends of Ecological Reserves has posted their first set of Information Requests to the National Energy Board and Kinder Morgan as Intervenors in the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project . Their concerns focus on the Ecological reserves of Southern Vancouver Island such as Race Rocks . See this link with a further link to all intervenors Information requests. kmstudyarea-1

B.C. coast, St. Lawrence Estuary most at Risk for Major Marine Oil Spill: Report

Adapted from the Times Colonist at this link:

The Canadian Press
January 29, 2014 01:24 PM  

OTTAWA — A government-commissioned risk analysis says the coast of southern British Columbia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are the Canadian areas most vulnerable marine oil spills and among the most likely for a major spill to occur.

The findings will add to the debate over several pipeline proposals — including two in B.C. that the report says will substantially increase marine risks.

The 256-page study, delivered this month to Transport Canada, looks at the risks associated with marine oil spills south of the 60th parallel under current shipping volumes.

race-rocks-lighthouseIt identifies the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the Cabot Strait off Newfoundland, the eastern coast of Cape Breton Island and the Gulf of St. Lawrence as the most probable areas for a major oil spill.

But the study also assesses the potential impact of four proposed pipeline projects, including the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat and Kinder Morgan’s plan to almost triple its Trans Mountain line into Vancouver.

The report says the Kinder Morgan proposal would essentially double oil traffic in an already vulnerable marine environment — with a corresponding increase in spill frequency — while the Northern Gateway marine route would turn what are currently very low, near-shore risks into very high risks.

The study found that reversing Enbridge’s Line 9 to carry Western Canadian crude to refineries in Montreal and Quebec City would actually lower marine spill risks, as it would reduce oil imports through the sensitive Gulf of St. Lawrence.

And the study found that the proposed Energy East Pipeline to St. John, N.B., would likely be a wash, reducing shipping imports but increasing oil exports to leave the overall marine risk about where it is now.

© Copyright Times Colonist

Posts on this website about the risk of oil spills on Metchosin’s shores:

Posts on the Ecological Reserves website about the threat of Oil Spills from Tanker Traffic

Posts on the Race Rocks website about the Risk from Increased Tanker Traffic

See the following posts for further information on Tanker traffic off our shores:

figure-3-overall-risks-oil- spills

 Review of Canada’s Ship-Source Oil-Spill Preparedness and response Regime: 



Application to NEB by Board of Friends of Ecological Reserves

 Ship traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Mergansers out in full force today.

In the Christmas Bird Count this year, one of the marine birds noted in particularly high numbers was the Common  Merganser, Mergus merganser, with a count of 258 along the Metchosin/Sooke shores.

I noted today( rainy and overcast)  that there were 32 Common Mergansers ( 6 males and  26 females down on the north end of Taylor Beach . Often when we see them there throughout the winter, they are in smaller groups and are continually diving for food. Today the pattern was quite different as they were all in  courtship mood.  The males have a distinctive forward bow, then an upward stretch of their necks  and then a quick scurry on the surface around  a female. These are probably one of the most colourful seabirds on our coast and well worth looking for in protected bays and inlets during the winter. (Pedder Bay also often has a dozen or so) .

Of course these birds as other over-wintering seabirds in our water are very vulnerable to oil spills. If the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline goes through, The current risk from a maximum of  5 oil tankers going through the southern entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca each day, is bad enough, but when one contemplates the added risk of accidents from 34 tankers (each over 200 metres in length) plying our waters  by 2015, the future for overwintering birds like this is rather dismal.

Other articles about this concern:


5.1 Fisheries Policies for Sustainability

If Seafood fisheries in British Columbia are to remain sustainable then there must be adherence to a regime of regulations . Management of fisheries in the past has often led to depletion of resources. Examples can be drawn from herring and salmon resources in BC, the anchovy and sardine examples of Pacific Coast of North and South America, and the Atlantic Cod. The unsustainable practises of Drift net fisheries, bottom trawling, and by-catch are examples of why there are problems.(see reference No.5 below).

Here is an opportunity to emphasize best practises for ecologically sustainable fisheries. The Precautionary Principle is at the base of a requirement for sustainable fisheries.

Resource references:

1. In the report “Progress Towards Environmental Sustainability in British Columbia’s Seafood Sector., May 2001″ there are a number of excellent graphics which present a framework for sustainable fisheries.

The topics below are dealt with in length and provide excellent examples of displays and interactive presentations which could be set up on sustainable fisheries.

Sustainable Fishing and Aquaculture
Sustainable Harvest of Target species and Stocks
Limiting the impacts of Fisheries on Non-Target species,
Limiting Impacts on Habitats and Ecosystems
Ensuring effective management and regulation.

2. The Geoduck Fishery: has established a Code of Conduct for responsible Fishing.

3. 2006 BC Seafood Industry report

4. Seafood Statistics:

5. FIsheries Issues:

Go to the sustainable aquaculture section

5.2 The Ecosystem Approach

From: Oceans in Peril: Protecting Marine Biodiversity publ 2007

An ecosystem approach promotes both conservation and the sustainable use of marine resources in an equitable way. It is a holistic approach that considers environmental protection and marine management together, rather than as two separate and mutually exclusive goals. Paramount to the application of this approach is the establishment of networks of fully protected marine reserves, in essence, “national parks” of the sea. These provide protection of whole ecosystems and enable biodiversity to both recover and flourish. They also benefit fisheries by allowing for spillover of fish and larvae or eggs from the reserve into adjacent fishing grounds.
Outside of the reserves, an ecosystem approach requires the sustainable management of fisheries and other resources. Demands on marine resources must be managed within the limits of what the ecosystem can provide indefinitely, rather than being allowed to expand as demographic and market forces dictate. An ecosystem approach requires protection at the level of the whole ecosystem. This is radically different from the current practice, where most fisheries management measures focus simply on single species and do not consider the role of these species in the wider ecosystem.
An ecosystem approach is also precautionary in nature, meaning that a lack of knowledge should not excuse decision-makers from taking action, but rather lead them to err on the side of caution. The burden of proof must be placed on those who want to undertake activities, such as fishing or coastal development, to show that these activities will not harm the marine environment. In other words, current presumptions that favor freedom to fish and freedom of the seas will need to be replaced with the new concept of freedom for the seas.”


1.Canessa, R., Conley, K., and Smiley, B. 2003. Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area: an ecosystem overview report. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 2461. ……/ASynthesisResearchActivitiesFCEcosystemBaseFish.pdf


Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Serial No. N5511 NAFO SCS Doc. 08/10 SCIENTIFIC COUNCIL MEETING – JUNE 2008 Report of the NAFO Scientific Council Working Group on Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (WGEAFM) NAFO Headquarters, Dartmouth, Canada 26-30 May 2008.

In recognition of an amended NAFO Convention (currently awaiting ratification) which has principles of an Ecosystem
Approach to Fisheries Management, Scientific Council established a Working Group on the Ecosystem Approach to
Fisheries Management in September 2007. Terms of Reference (ToR1) for this WG relate to the identification of eco-
regions within the NAFO Convention Area (NCA) and the development of ecosystem health indicators.

3. A synthesis of Research Activities at the Fisheries Centre on Ecosystem-based Fisheries Modelling and Assessment with emphasis on the Northern and Central Coast of BC..2007,
S.Guenete,V.Christiansen,C. Hover,M.Lam D.Preikshot, D. Pauly

5.3 Fishing Down Food Webs

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