How would Orcas be impacted by the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline?
Marine Mammals, including orca, are at risk in the event of an oil spill:
- Southern resident killer whales in British Columbia are considered endangered species, while northern whales are considered threatened but recovery plans in place are weak (Raincoast Conservation Foundation, 2014)
- Many marine mammals, including orca (also called blackfish or southern resident killer whale), reside in or visit Burrard Inlet (Trans Mountain Assessment Report, p. 32).
Impact of Oil spills
- More than 25 years after the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, orca populations have not yet recovered. The impact on orca populations of an oil spill caused by the Kinder Morgan pipeline or associated tanker traffic would be even more severe (Trans Mountain Assessment Report, p. 71).
- The proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion will increase tanker and tug traffic in the Burrard Inlet significantly. Loud, underwater noises change animal behaviour resulting from running tanker or tug engines can disturb the orcas’ senses, as they rely on sonar to communicate and forage for food. The blackfish sonar system is critical for their survival (Trans Mountain Assessment Report, p. 78).
Cultural importance to Tsleil-Waututh
- Changes in the behaviour of blackfish—a culturally important species for Tsleil-Waututh—could include ceasing visits to Burrard Inlet. This would deprive the Tsleil-Waututh community of the benefit of blackfish presence (Trans Mountain Assessment Report, p. 78).
Salmon and other food sources
- Orcas rely on adequate salmon stocks as a food source. In case of an oil spill, a large portion of the salmon population can be expected to die. (Background Facts for TWN Independent Assessment, p. 1)