How would Orcas be impacted by the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline?
This page builds on information from a Tsleil-Waututh Nation report that assesses the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project. You can read and download the full report here.
Many marine mammals, including orcas, are at risk in the event of an oil spill:
- Southern resident killer whales in British Columbia are considered an endangered species while northern whales are considered threatened. Sadly, recovery plans in place are weak. (Raincoast Conservation Foundation, 2014)
- Many marine mammals, including orcas (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 Trans Mountain pipeline or associated tanker traffic would have the same effects. (Trans Mountain Assessment Report, p. 71)
- The proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will increase tanker and tug traffic in the Burrard Inlet significantly. Loud, underwater noises resulting from running tankers or tug engines change animal behaviour and 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)
- Even without oil spills the additional noise from Trans Mountain tanker traffic increases the risk of extinction to the already endangered orcas. According to Raincoast, “the approval of the Trans Mountain project sanctions the probable extinction of Southern Resident killer whales.” (Raincoast Conservation Foundation, para. 4)
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 the 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)
We have the chance to defend our orcas by stopping the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline. Click here to learn more.
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