Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Sidney, Canada

Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Sidney, Canada
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News Article | May 29, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

On a recent April morning, we were on the hunt for eggs. Our search brought us an hour's boat ride from Bella Bella, in the Heiltsuk Nation of British Columbia, Canada. We weren't the only ones there: a sea otter waved us through the entrance to the bay, as thousands of birds, from scoters to gulls, sandpipers to eagles, filled the air with their darting bodies and raucous bird-speak. Sea lions popped their heads out of the water, gasping asthmatically. The rich-smelling low tide revealed beaches with a grainy frosting of white eggs, laid by the fish orchestrating the whole show: herring. Three wolves appeared from the edge of the mossy, wind-whipped forest. An adult and two juveniles strutted down to the water's edge, unfazed by the multi-species cacophony. After they'd had their fill of bountiful herring eggs, they carefully pawed at the water and caught some live fish to round out their meal. What we were witnessing was taking place alongside a large-scale human fishery—one employing hundreds of Heiltsuk fishers. Our morning gives a glimpse of the enormous, yet often underappreciated, importance of herring on this coast. If gigantic trees are the first image brought to mind of the coastal rainforests of Western North America, salmon are surely the second, often described as the 'lifeblood' of this region because of the countless animals and plants their spawning bodies feed. Read More: A Diesel Spill Is Putting the World's Largest Temperate Rainforest at Risk But this tells only half the story. Whereas salmon provide the food many species need to make it through winter, it's the return of herring that marks the end of winter's starvation. "They are major drivers of rich, diverse and dynamic coastal ecosystems," said Caroline Fox, a biologist who has studied the ecology of herring for years. The annual spawn is of such central importance that it marks the Heiltsuk New Year. For thousands of years, this abundance has shaped, and been shaped by, careful management by the Heiltsuk and neighbouring Nations. The relationship with herring has been sustained through a mix of non-lethal SOK ('Spawn on Kelp') harvesting—where hemlock or kelp is suspended in the water as a substrate for eggs to be laid on and harvested directly from—and cautious, informed approaches to a kill fishery (of adult fish, to be eaten). However, in the past century, the imposition of federal management and industrial fisheries caused a drastic crash of populations. Careful place-based management approaches built over millennia were replaced with large-scale extraction, primarily for a "reduction" fishery where herring were caught to be ground up as fishmeal and oils. By the late '60s, the stock had collapsed. After a partial recovery in the 70s, Canada instituted a "sac roe" fishery, wherein fish are killed and cut open to extract their eggs, a stark contrast to the SOK approach that harvests eggs while leaving fish free to spawn for years to come. The herring stocks declined again through the ensuing decades, with the Heiltsuk Nation becoming increasingly frustrated that their expertise, knowledge, and rights to manage this fishery were ignored, while this key resource collapsed once again. Tension culminated in 2015. Heiltsuk knowledge-holders and scientists found that the stock was not able to withstand continued pressure, and declared the fishery closed. Regardless, Canada opted to sanction a sac roe fishery in a vital SOK harvesting area. Heiltsuk Leadership responded by peacefully occupying the Canadian Fisheries and Oceans base near Bella Bella BC for three days. The standoff was resolved when Canada promised a new co-management approach whereby Heiltsuk rights to not only the resource, but also its management, are respected. This is promising, though negotiations on what this co-management will ultimately look like are ongoing. The explosion of life we saw in that bay one month ago gives a glimpse of the richness of the past, but it also provides a stark contrast for the present. As in many places around the world, the current 'baseline' abundance of herring in Heiltsuk Territory is a severely depleted population. Herring return in fewer numbers than they did even in living memory, and in only a fraction of the areas. Many bays that once burst to life each spring now remain quiet, devoid of herring. The wolves we witnessed were well-fed, but their cousins a few bays over had no such feast. Steps towards resumption of Heiltsuk-led management provide promise for restoring the relationships here that sustained this species and the coastal ecosystems for millennia. But we aren't out of the water yet. By now, the eggs at the centre of the recent ruckus have hatched into young herring. They bear an immense responsibility for ending winter starvations and bringing in New Years to come. But they are in uncertain waters. Kyle Artelle is a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, a PhD candidate with the Reynolds Lab and the Applied Conservation Sciences Lab, and a Wilburforce Fellow, Hakai Scholar and Vanier Fellow. He lives in Bella Bella BC, with much of his work occurring in collaboration with the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, Qqs Projects Society, Spirit Bear Research Foundation, and the Central Coast Bear Working Group. Mike Reid is the aquatics manager at the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department. He coordinates the management and policy of all aquatic resources, and guides marine research throughout Heiltsuk Territory, led by HIRMD and partner organizations. Subscribe to Science Solved It, Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.

Jarvela Rosenberger A.L.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | MacDuffee M.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | Rosenberger A.G.J.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | Ross P.S.,Ocean Pollution Research Program
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology | Year: 2017

Marine mammals are inherently vulnerable to oil spills. We developed a conceptual framework to evaluate the impacts of potential oil exposure on marine mammals and applied it to 21 species inhabiting coastal British Columbia (BC), Canada. Oil spill vulnerability was determined by examining both the likelihood of species-specific (individual) oil exposure and the consequent likelihood of population-level effects. Oil exposure pathways, ecology, and physiological characteristics were first used to assign species—specific vulnerability rankings. Baleen whales were found to be highly vulnerable due to blowhole breathing, surface filter feeding, and invertebrate prey. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were ranked as highly vulnerable due to their time spent at the ocean surface, dense pelage, and benthic feeding techniques. Species-specific vulnerabilities were considered to estimate the likelihood of population-level effects occurring after oil exposure. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations were deemed at highest risk due to small population sizes, complex social structure, long lives, slow reproductive turnover, and dietary specialization. Finally, we related the species–specific and population-level vulnerabilities. In BC, vulnerability was deemed highest for Northern and Southern Resident killer whales and sea otters, followed by Bigg’s killer whales and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Our findings challenge the typical “indicator species” approach routinely used and underscore the need to examine marine mammals at a species and population level for risk-based oil spill predictions. This conceptual framework can be combined with spill probabilities and volumes to develop more robust risk assessments and may be applied elsewhere to identify vulnerability themes for marine mammals. © 2017, Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Darimont C.T.,University of Victoria | Darimont C.T.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | Darimont C.T.,Hakai Institute | Fox C.H.,University of Victoria | And 5 more authors.
Science | Year: 2015

Paradigms of sustainable exploitation focus on population dynamics of prey and yields to humanity but ignore the behavior of humans as predators. We compared patterns of predation by contemporary hunters and fishers with those of other predators that compete over shared prey (terrestrial mammals and marine fishes). Our global survey (2125 estimates of annual finite exploitation rate) revealed that humans kill adult prey, the reproductive capital of populations, at much higher median rates than other predators (up to 14 times higher), with particularly intense exploitation of terrestrial carnivores and fishes. Given this competitive dominance, impacts on predators, and other unique predatory behavior, we suggest that humans function as an unsustainable "super predator," which - unless additionally constrained by managers - will continue to alter ecological and evolutionary processes globally. © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.

Stronen A.V.,Polish Academy of Sciences | Paquet P.C.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | Paquet P.C.,University of Victoria
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

Hybridization processes are widespread throughout the taxonomic range and require conservation recognition. Science can help us understand hybridization processes but not whether and when we ought to conserve hybrids. Important questions include the role of humans in hybridization and the value we place on natural and human-induced hybrids concerning their ecological function. Certain hybrids resulting from human actions have replaced the ecological role of extirpated or extinct parent taxa and this ecological role should be preserved. Conservation policies must increasingly recognize populations of wild organisms that hybridize naturally within the context of their historical ecological role. Natural selection acts on individual organisms and the range of characteristics displayed by individual hybrids constitute raw material for evolution. Guidelines must consider the conservation value of individuals and the ethical aspects of removing hybrids for the purpose of conserving population genetic integrity. Conservation policies should focus on protecting the ecological role of taxa affected by hybridization. An informative example is North American canids (Canis), where body size, prey availability, and human landscape modifications may interact and impose local selective pressures. Gray wolves (Canis lupus) and eastern wolves (Canis lycaon or Canis lupus lycaon) or Great Lakes wolves appear to hybridize naturally within the context of their historical ecological role. In contrast, eastern coyotes (C. latrans) exhibit wolf ancestry and have partly replaced the ecological role of an extirpated parent taxa in parts of northeastern North America. The need for advancing conservation policies that reflect our current understanding of ecology and evolution is urgent. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Price M.H.H.,University of Victoria | Price M.H.H.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | Morton A.,Salmon Coast Field Station | Reynolds J.D.,Simon Fraser University
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | Year: 2010

Salmon farms are spatially concentrated reservoirs of fish host populations that can disrupt natural salmonid host-parasite dynamics. Sea lice frequently infect farm salmon and parasitize sympatric wild juvenile salmonids, with negative impacts on survival in Europe and Pacific Canada. We examined louse parasitism of wild juvenile chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) and pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) from three salmon farming regions in British Columbia (Finlayson, Broughton Archipelago, and Georgia Strait). We compared sites of low and high exposure to farms and included an area without farms (Bella Bella) to assess baseline infection levels. Louse prevalence and abundance were lowest and most similar to natural baseline levels at low-exposure sites and highest at high-exposure sites in all farm regions. A significantly greater proportion of the lice were Lepeophtheirus salmonis at high-exposure sites. Exposure to salmon farms was the only consistently significant factor to explain the variation in prevalence data, with a secondary role played by salinity. Our results support the hypothesis that salmon farms are a major source of sea lice on juvenile wild salmon in salmon farming regions and underscore the importance of using management techniques that mitigate threats to wild stocks.

News Article | November 18, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Over the last several months, people from all walks of life have opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline: a $3.7 billion and 1,172-mile crude oil conduit that would destroy the sacred cultural property of the Dakotas' Standing Rock Sioux tribe. This week, President Obama refused to make a decision on whether to proceed with its construction—a move that will likely leave the verdict to president-elect Donald Trump, a staunch defender of fossil fuel interests. But meanwhile, three different pipeline projects have been steadily making headway in North America. And with energy relations looking potentially volatile under Trump, these nascent oil and gas projects are worth paying attention to. Up north, Canada's Trans Mountain Expansion project, which would add more than 600 miles of additional pipeline to already-existing infrastructure, stands to extinguish an endangered orca population along the Pacific coast. Conservationists fear that increased oil tanker traffic, an inevitable side effect of the expansion into Vancouver, will fatally disrupt the resident whales' habitat due to noise and physical pollution. The Trans Mountain Pipeline was established in 1953 by the American company Kinder Morgan; North America's fourth largest energy company. Carrying crude and oil sands bitumen from Alberta down to the coast of British Columbia, the pipeline currently moves some 300,000 barrels per day. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will need to approve the expansion before a December 19 decision deadline, but has showed support for the project as a way to export Canadian oil to Asian markets. However, environmentalists have called the twin pipeline proposal a death warrant for southern resident orca in the Salish Sea—one of only two orca populations to have received federal protections under the United States' Marine Mammal Protection Act, an environmental law that prohibits the killing, harassment, or taking of animals considered at-risk. Just 80 southern resident whales currently exist, with numbers middling since government scientists began tracking them in 1974. Orca species are considered endangered in both Canada and the United States. Should the Trans Mountain Expansion project receive the greenlight, marine traffic from oil tankers and barges in the region will increase sevenfold, according to The Guardian. As shipping traffic rises, so does the risk of an oil spill, which can be toxic and deadly to orca who are unlikely to detect the presence of chemicals in the water. In addition to the hazards of physical pollutants, noise pollution can cause these whales to lose up to 97 percent of their communication abilities which allow them to hunt, socialize, and navigate their surroundings. "The approval of the project is also the approval of the extinction of the population," Ross Dixon, a spokesperson for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, told The Guardian. "No one is disputing it. Nobody is saying that's not accurate. It's been accepted." Over the last decade, the pipeline has seen dozens of ruptures and leaks causing millions of dollars worth of damage. The worst of these incidents was in 2007, when road workers accidentally ruptured part of the pipeline, allowing 66,000 gallons of oil to spill into a neighborhood of Burnaby, and more than 18,000 gallons into the Burrard Inlet. Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to balance Canada's energy and environmental priorities with regard to the pipeline, but the project has been condemned by conservationists and some First Nations communities. Trudeau has also been criticized for his support of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and has yet to offer a nationwide plan for meeting the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement, which Canada formally ratified in October. The Trans-Pecos Pipeline and Comanche Trail Pipeline, Texas, United States: Pose environmental risk to Big Bend wildlands Further south, the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines will move natural gas from Texas' Permian Basin across the border into Mexico. In May, President Obama approved permits for both projects while public attention was diverted to Dakota Access pipeline protests. The Trans-Pecos project will shuttle billions of cubic feet of natural gas per day, straight through Big Bend—a region cherished for its pristine wilderness areas—and into Chihuahua, Mexico. Comanche Trail, which, like the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, will stretch from Pecos County, Texas, and snake 195 miles underground to the US-Mexico border. Announced in 2014, the Trans-Pecos Pipeline was commissioned by the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission which services approximately 37.3 million electricity customers in Mexico. The project will be a joint effort between American and Mexican energy companies, and its growing roster currently includes former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and multibillionaire Carlos Slim, according to Mother Jones. Since its inception, the pipeline has instigated a turf war waged by Texas locals, such as the Big Bend Conservation Alliance, which argues the project should receive stricter federal oversight. If the pipeline is ruled an "interstate" project, it will warrant an environmental assessment by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). However, right now, FERC only has jurisdiction over the segment of pipeline crossing the US-Mexico border. The rest is governed by the Texas Railroad Commission—whose top candidate for Railroad Commissioner, Wayne Christian, received $190,000 in contributions from oil and gas interests this year—as an "intrastate" project, and is not required to receive an environmental impact report. In Mexico, where the country's booming natural gas industry is still developing, regulatory oversight is even less stringent, according to Bloomberg BNA. Some environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club, view the pipeline project as a way for American energy companies to eventually frack, under no regulation, Mexico's 545 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves. The opposition to the Comanche Trail Pipeline is similar; Texas residents fear the natural gas conduit will spoil acres of precious wildlands that both animal species and outdoor recreation enthusiasts rely on. Big Bend is home to a US state park, US national park, and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and provides crucial habitat for 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles, and 11 species of amphibians. As noted by EcoWatch, President Obama's timing for the joint approval of these pipelines couldn't have been more ideal. When all eyes were turned to North Dakota, leaders in the United States and Mexico created the US-Mexico Energy Business Council, aimed at enhancing collaboration between the countries with regard to large-scale energy development. How president-elect Trump will manage these energy relations remains to be seen. In his America First Energy Plan, Trump promised to "unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves."

News Article | March 11, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

They come from the West Coast, as far south as California, as north as Alaska, and as east as the Atlantic coast. Their joint letter refers to “Misrepresentation,” “lack of information,” and “Disregard for science that was not funded by the proponent.” Scientists condemn the flawed review process for Lelu Island, at the mouth of British Columbia’s Skeena River, as “a symbol of what is wrong with environmental decision-making in Canada.” More than 130 scientists signed on to this letter. “This letter is not about being for or against LNG, the letter is about scientific integrity in decision-making,” said Dr. Jonathan Moore, Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management, Simon Fraser University. One of the other signatories is Otto Langer, former Chief of Habitat Assessment at Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), who wrote: These are tough words for a Federal government that promised to put teeth back in the gutted environmental review process. In Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s defense, this is yet another problem he inherited from the previous administration, and the task of cleaning up this mess seems enormous. That said, this government was aware the environmental review process was broken before it was elected and has not intervened to at least stop the process from moving forward until it is prepared to take action. The Liberal Government appears to be facing a tough decision. So far, it has attempted to work with the provinces. On Lelu Island, as well as the equally controversial proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline  expansion and Site C Dam project, continuing to support Premier Clak’s policies in this manner would appear to necessitate betraying the trust of the Canadian people. Here are a few choice excerpts from the public letter that more than 130 scientists sent to Catherine McKenna and Prime Minister Trudeau: ” … The CEAA draft report has not accurately characterized the importance of the project area, the Flora Bank region, for fish. The draft CEAA report1 states that the “…marine habitats around Lelu Island are representative of marine ecosystems throughout the north coast of B.C.”. In contrast, five decades of science has repeatedly documented that this habitat is NOT representative of other areas along the north coast or in the greater Skeena River estuary, but rather that it is exceptional nursery habitat for salmon2-6 that support commercial, recreational, and First Nation fisheries from throughout the Skeena River watershed and beyond7. A worse location is unlikely to be found for PNW LNG with regards to potential risks to fish and fisheries….” ” … CEAA’s draft report concluded that the project is not likely to cause adverse effects on fish in the estuarine environment, even when their only evidence for some species was an absence of information. For example, eulachon, a fish of paramount importance to First Nations and a Species of Special Concern8, likely use the Skeena River estuary and project area during their larval, juvenile, and adult life-stages. There has been no systematic study of eulachon in the project area. Yet CEAA concluded that the project posed minimal risks to this fish…” ” … CEAA’s draft report is not a balanced consideration of the best-available science. On the contrary, CEAA relied upon conclusions presented in proponent-funded studies which have not been subjected to independent peer-review and disregarded a large and growing body of relevant independent scientific research, much of it peer-reviewed and published…” ” …The PNW LNG project presents many different potential risks to the Skeena River estuary and its fish, including, but not limited to, destruction of shoreline habitat, acid rain, accidental spills of fuel and other contaminants, dispersal of contaminated sediments, chronic and acute sound, seafloor destruction by dredging the gas pipeline into the ocean floor, and the erosion and food-web disruption from the trestle structure. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada provided detailed reviews12 on only one risk pathway – habitat erosion – while no such detailed reviews were conducted on other potential impacts or their cumulative effects…” ” … CEAA’s draft report concluded that the project posed moderate risks to marine fish but that these risks could be mitigated. However, the proponent has not fully developed their mitigation plans and the plans that they have outlined are scientifically dubious. For example, the draft assessment states that destroyed salmon habitat will be mitigated; the “proponent identified 90 000 m2 of lower productivity habitats within five potential offsetting sites that could be modified to increase the productivity of fisheries”, when in fact, the proponent did not present data on productivity of Skeena Estuary habitats for fish at any point in the CEAA process. Without understanding relationships between fish and habitat, the proposed mitigation could actually cause additional damage to fishes of the Skeena River estuary…” British Columbia Institute of Technology 1. Marvin Rosenau, Ph.D., Professor, British Columbia Institute of Technology. 2. Eric M. Anderson, Ph.D., Faculty, British Columbia Institute of Technology. British Columbia Ministry of Environment 1. R. S. Hooton, M.Sc., Former Senior Fisheries Management Authority for British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Skeena Region. California Academy of Sciences 1. John E. McCosker, Ph.D., Chair of Aquatic Biology, Emeritus, California Academy of Sciences. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada 1. Otto E. Langer, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Fisheries Biologist, Former Chief of Habitat Assessment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Memorial University of Newfoundland 1. Ian A. Fleming, Ph.D., Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland. 2. Brett Favaro, Ph.D., Liber Ero conservation fellow, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research 1. Rachel Malison, Ph.D., Marie Curie Fellow and Research Ecologist, The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. Russian Academy of Science 1. Alexander I. Vedenev, Ph.D., Head of Ocean Noise Laboratory, Russian Academy of Science 2. Victor Afanasiev, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences. Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography 1. Alexander Shubin, M.Sc. Fisheries Biologist, Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography. Simon Fraser University, BC 1. Jonathan W. Moore, Ph.D., Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University. 2. Randall M. Peterman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Former Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management, Simon Fraser University. 3. John D. Reynolds, Ph.D., Tom Buell BC Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation, Professor, Simon Fraser University 4. Richard D. Routledge, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 5. Evelyn Pinkerton, Ph.D., School of Resource and Environmental Management, Professor, Simon Fraser University. 6. Dana Lepofsky, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University 7. Nicholas Dulvy, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Professor, Simon Fraser University. 8. Ken Lertzman, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 9. Isabelle M. Côté, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 10. Brendan Connors, Ph.D., Senior Systems Ecologist, ESSA Technologies Ltd., Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University. 11. Lawrence Dill, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University. 12. Patricia Gallaugher, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University. 13. Anne Salomon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University. 14. Arne Mooers, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 15. Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 16. Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University. University of Alaska 1. Peter Westley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 2. Anne Beaudreau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 3. Megan V. McPhee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks. University of Alberta 1. David.W. Schindler, Ph.D., Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology Emeritus, University of Alberta. 2. Suzanne Bayley, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, University of Alberta. University of British Columbia 1. John G. Stockner, Ph.D., Emeritus Senior Scientist DFO, West Vancouver Laboratory, Adjuct Professor, University of British Columbia. 2. Kai M.A. Chan, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia 3. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics and Integrated Assessment of Global Change, Professor, University of British Columbia 4. Sarah P. Otto, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia. 5. Michael Doebeli, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia. 6. Charles J. Krebs, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia. 7. Amanda Vincent, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia. 8. Michael Healey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia. University of California (various campuses) 1. Mary E. Power, Ph.D., Professor, University of California, Berkeley 2. Peter B. Moyle, Ph.D., Professor, University of California. 3. Heather Tallis, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Adjunct Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz. 4. James A. Estes, Ph.D., Professor, University of California. 5. Eric P. Palkovacs, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California-Santa Cruz. 6. Justin D. Yeakel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California. 7. John L. Largier, Ph.D., Professor, University of California Davis. University of Montana 1. Jack A. Stanford, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology, University of Montana. 2. Andrew Whiteley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Montana. 3. F. Richard Hauer, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Center for Integrated Research on the Environment, University of Montana. University of New Brunswick 1. Richard A. Cunjak, Ph.D., Professor, University of New Brunswick. University of Ontario Institute of Technology 1. Douglas A. Holdway, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Toxicology, Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology. University of Ottawa 1. Jeremy Kerr, Ph.D., University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation, Professor, University of Ottawa University of Toronto 1. Martin Krkosek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Toronto. Gail McCabe, Ph.D., University of Toronto. University of Victoria 1. Chris T. Darimont, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria 2. John Volpe, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria. 3. Aerin Jacob, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria. 4. Briony E.H. Penn, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria. 5. Natalie Ban, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria. 6. Travis G. Gerwing, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria. 7. Eric Higgs, Ph.D., Professor, University of Victoria. 8. Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria. 9. James K. Rowe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Victoria. University of Washington 1. Charles Simenstad, Ph.D., Professor, University of Washington. 2. Daniel Schindler, Ph.D., Harriet Bullitt Endowed Chair in Conservation, Professor, University of Washington. 3. Julian D. Olden, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Washington. 4. P. Sean McDonald, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Washington. 5. Tessa Francis, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Washington. University of Windsor 1. Hugh MacIsaac, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Professor, University of Windsor. Photo Credits: 9 of the scientist condemning the CEAA review are professors at the University of Victoria. Photo shows U Vic students listening to a UN official in 2012 by Herb Neufeld via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Screen shot from a Liberal campaign video in which Trudeau promised to bring real change to Ottawa;8 of the scientist condemning the CEAA review are professors at the University of British Columbia. Photo of UBC by abdallahh via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);5 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review are from the University of Washington. Photo is Mary Gates Hall, in the University of Washington by PRONam-ho Park Follow via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);5 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review are from the Skeena Fisheries Commission. Photo is Coast mountains near the mouth of the Skeena River by Roy Luck via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);16 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review were professors at Simon Fraser University. Photo shows SFU’s Reflective Pool by Jon the Happy Web Creative via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)    Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”   Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  

News Article | October 31, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

In the early hours of Oct. 13, a petroleum tug-barge tanker called the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground near Waglisla (Bella Bella) on the central coast of British Columbia, crashing into one of the richest ecological and cultural treasures in Wax'wuisaxv-s Haiłzakv (Territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation). Almost three weeks later, the sunken tug is still there, still intermittently leaking diesel, and clean-up efforts have barely begun. As someone who works and lives in Bella Bella, and who has spent time as an observer for the Heiltsuk Nation in the aftermath of the crash, what I've been seeing firsthand has left me concerned. The Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia's West Coast comprises the largest intact temperate rainforest on earth. It's a place of snow-capped mountains, towering trees, and diverse wildlife inextricably linked to the marine environment. Populations of black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, and eagles make their living from the sea, thriving on the salmon that fill rivers in the fall, the spawning herring whose eggs paint beaches white in the spring, and the intertidal invertebrates that live in the interface between the forest and sea year-round. A stone's throw from shore and you're in the realm of orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, octopuses, and countless other species that thrive in these clean, cold, nutrient-rich waters. As a conservation biologist with the science-based nonprofit Raincoast Conservation Foundation who is lucky enough to live as a guest in Bella Bella, I'm often astounded by the richness of my home. The region is home to numerous First Nations, including the Heiltsuk. To the people from here, the mountains, trees, animals and waters aren't just picturesque, but sacred. They are relatives and teachers, medicines and foods. The risks of marine transport, especially of oil, have been a concern here for years. With eerie timing, a film recently created by students at the Bella Bella Community School summarizing these concerns was released just four days before the Nathan E. Stewart drove into a reef on a calm clear night, in a channel three kilometers wide. (A representative of the Houston-based owner has apologized.) Thankfully the petroleum barge it was pushing was not loaded at the time, but the tug sank and began spilling thousands of gallons of diesel into Seaforth Channel and nearby Qvúqvái ("Gale Creek" in English). That this happened at all is disappointing, but where it happened is tragic. I've been privileged to spend a day with some 60 orcas here, a week with wolves eating herring eggs from the beach, and I've had countless commutes delayed by unexpected encounters with whales, porpoises, and bears. Read More: Native Americans Are Resisting the Dakota Pipeline With Tech and Media Savvy More importantly, this is where the Q̓vúqvay̓aítx̌v people, one of the five Heiltsuk tribes, come from, along with their stories, names, families and chiefs. Ancient stone fish traps grace its shores, a hint of the deep history written visibly on the land. It provides at least 25 harvested species of marine organisms. It harbours the most important clam beds in the territory (now closed due to likely contamination), which provide considerable winter employment. It provides kelp for traditional roe-on-kelp harvest of herring eggs. Edible seaweed is also harvested nearby, as are many species of salmon and other fish. Not long ago, it was a prime spot to harvest abalone, and the very reef the tug now sits upon remains habitat for the endangered species. Since the sinking, I've been spending time in the air, on the water, and on the land as an observer for the Heiltsuk Nation. The contrasts between the place's richness and the consequences of the spill are notable. Looking in one direction you might think you're in a nature documentary, with humpbacks and orcas, snow geese migrating past by the hundreds, and radio reports of sea otters, wolves, and deer coming in. However, pan left and you see the sunken tug and continued signs of contamination. Zoom in and you might notice the seemingly picturesque landscape is marred. I've stood on a beach where the usual refreshing smell of low tide was replaced by a thick, sickening odour of diesel, just upslope of beds of once edible California mussels, large patches of eelgrass, and a dizzying array of seaweeds, anemones, sculpins, snails, chitons, barnacles, and encrusting algaes. But the main thing I've seen first-hand is disarray, and the near impossibility of containment, recovery, and cleanup of petroleum once it enters this marine environment. This despite the impressive professionalism of Canada's Coast Guard on the scene, the hordes of experts brought in from around the world, and of course the tireless dedication of members of the Heiltsuk Nation who have dropped everything to devote themselves to the response. This environment is simply not conducive to anyone's best efforts. Booms placed carefully to contain ongoing leaks from the tug get torn apart in front of our eyes, rendered useless in winds, swells, currents, and tides that are not unusual for this time of year. Weather has similarly prevented work crews from reaching the wreck or the shores to do work. The latest we've heard is that the tug might be removed within the week. This crash is an important reminder that no matter what safeguards are in place, accidents happen. When they do, the damage is done. Coverage of this spill has been mostly relegated as a 'local news' piece, but it should be a global story. When we return home each night in Bella Bella, we hear news of ongoing conflicts over the North Dakota pipeline. Although half a continent apart, the connection is haunting: the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's worst fears have just become the Heiltsuk Nation's reality, with no obvious end in sight. Kyle Artelle is a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, a PhD candidate with the Reynolds Lab and the Applied Conservation Sciences Lab; and a Wilburforce Fellow, Hakai Scholar and Vanier Fellow. Much of his work occurs in collaboration with the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, Qqs Projects Society, Spirit Bear Research Foundation, and the Central Coast Bear Working Group. He tweets at @KyleArtelle. Top image: Spill-containing booms rest on eelgrass beds at lowtide, just downslope from a contaminated beach, with the sunken Nathan E. Stewart looming in the background. Eelgrass provides critical nursery habitat for salmon and many other species of fish in the area. Image: Heiltsuk Nation/Kyle Artelle Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.

Vander Wal E.,University of Saskatchewan | Paquet P.C.,Raincoast Conservation Foundation | Andraes J.A.,University of Saskatchewan
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2012

The mechanisms of pathogen transmission are often social behaviours. These occur at local scales and are affected by landscape-scale population structure. Host populations frequently exist in patchy and isolated environments that create a continuum of genetic and social familiarity. Such variability has an important multispatial effect on pathogen spread. We assessed elk dispersal (i.e. likelihood of interdeme pathogen transmission) through spatially explicit genetic analyses. At a landscape scale, the elk population was composed of one cluster within a southeast-to-northwest cline spanning three spatially discrete subpopulations of elk across two protected areas in Manitoba (Canada). Genetic data are consistent with spatial variability in apparent prevalence of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in elk. Given the existing population structure, between-subpopulation spread of disease because of elk dispersal is unlikely. Furthermore, to better understand the risk of spread and distribution of the TB, we used a combination of close-contact logging biotelemetry and genetic data, which highlights how social intercourse may affect pathogen transmission. Our results indicate that close-contact interaction rate and duration did not covary with genetic relatedness. Thus, direct elk-to-elk transmission of disease is unlikely to be constrained to related individuals. That social intercourse in elk is not limited to familial groups provides some evidence pathogen transmission may be density-dependent. We show that the combination of landscape-scale genetics, relatedness and local-scale social behaviours is a promising approach to understand and predict landscape-level pathogen transmission within our system and within all social ungulate systems affected by transmissible diseases. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

News Article | November 16, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

On one shore there are snow-capped mountains. On the other side loom towering skyscrapers. These churning waters off the coast of Vancouver are marked by a constant flow of ferries and containers ships – but they are also home to 80 or so orcas. Known as the southern resident killer whales the group has long had a fraught relationship with the urban sprawl they live alongside, leaving them on the knife’s edge of extinction. In the late 1960s and early 70s, dozens were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks around the world. Those who remained were exposed to runoff chemicals used in local industry, making them some of the world’s most contaminated marine mammals. But now the orcas of the Salish sea face what conservationists say is their biggest threat to date: an expansion proposal for a pipeline that would snake from Alberta to the Pacific coast. Spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, the C$6.8bn ($5bn) Trans Mountain Expansion project is designed to transport Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to international markets. The proposal – which still needs the approval of the federal government, led by Justin Trudeau – would expand an existing pipeline to lay nearly 1,000km of new pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver’s coastline. Oil tanker and barge traffic in the region would soar nearly sevenfold, to as many as 408 tankers a year. Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic would be disastrous for the resident orca whales – a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US. “The approval of the project is also the approval of the extinction of the population,” said Ross Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “No one is disputing it. Nobody is saying that’s not accurate. It’s been accepted.” In May, Canada’s energy regulator wrapped up two years of review into the Trans Mountain proposal, recommending that the federal government approve the project. The approval was conditional, subject to 157 conditions that include 49 environmental requirements. The regulator also noted the project “is likely to result in significant adverse effects to the southern resident killer whale”. Trudeau’s cabinet has until 19 December to make its final decision. Analysts have long speculated that the approval of the pipeline is imminent. “The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one,” Trudeau told attendees at a Vancouver conference on clean technology in March. “We need both to reach our goal, and as we continue to ensure there is a market for our natural resources, our deepening commitment to a cleaner future will be a valuable advantage.” Trudeau has faced immense pressure from Alberta – where sagging oil prices have sent unemployment soaring to around 8.5% – to approve a pipeline, but promises by Donald Trump to resurrect plans for the Keystone XL pipeline could alleviate some of this pressure. Many are not taking any chances. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation has joined forces with several other organisations to launch a legal challenge against the energy regulator’s approval of the project, arguing that it failed to take into account the impact on the orca whales and their habitat. The groups are currently waiting to hear whether their application for judicial review, filed in June, will be given the go ahead by the court. The anticipated increase in tanker traffic will heighten the physical and acoustic disturbances in the water, said Misty MacDuffee of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “The noise of the propeller and the engine emits at a frequency that can mask the communication of the whales,” she said. “And the overall traffic combines to create sort of a din … so it reduces the actual space over which the whale can hear and be heard by other whales.” The result could hamper the whales’ ability to catch food, she said. “They’ve got a unique diet, they’ve got a unique language in terms of their dialect and they’ve got a unique culture. And it’s that package that’s in jeopardy.” Climate change has steadily diminished the availability of Chinook salmon, the whales’ main food source. Drone research has revealed whales with altered body shapes and lacking fat deposits, suggesting they are starving. “You can visibly actually see the ribs on some of these whales,” said MacDuffee. If tanker traffic increases, the whales will not simply move to another area. “That critical habitat is not just a space on the map. It has these acoustic components, food supply components and water quality components.” The fate of the orcas is just one facet of the broad opposition the project is facing. More than 20 municipalities and 17 First Nations communities have come out against the proposal while hundreds of youth marched in Ottawa last month to urge the government to shelve the proposal. Thousands more are expected to turn out for a protest march in Vancouver this Saturday. The existing pipeline – which began operating in 1953 – passes near several schools, at one site running under a school playground, said Karen Wristen of Living Oceans. It was concerns over this trajectory that launched 92-year-old Elsie Dean into action. “It comes right through our community,” said Dean, pointing to the pipeline’s route through her home of Burnaby, a city of some 220,000 people in British Columbia. Since 1961, the pipeline system being eyed for expansion has reported approximately 82 spills to the country’s energy regulator, she noted. “It just seems rather insane to consider putting this amount of bitumen in a community of people.” Dean helped launch Broke, or Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion, four years ago in an effort to steer Canada – whose greenhouse gas emissions rank among the highest per capita in the OECD – away from fossil fuels and towards meaningful efforts to tackle climate change. “We know that if we don’t cut back on fossil fuels, the future generation or certainly my grandchildren will be affected adversely by climate change.” One First Nations community has countered the proposal with a demonstration of the alternative. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which sits directly across an inlet from the existing Kinder Morgan tanker terminal, recently launched a fundraising campaign to expand the community’s commitment to solar energy. “It’s a poetic way to illustrate the choices before us,” said Charlene Aleck, a councillor with the community. The Kinder Morgan project was analysed through the same lens as all others that come through the territory, said Aleck. “Is it feasible, is it something good for the water, land and air?” The community of 500 people was unanimous in its opposition. “It didn’t even pass the lowest entry form of how we would run business on our land.” Chief among the community’s concerns was the possibility of an oil spill, she said. “One accident and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as salmon, dolphins, whales, seals and a multitude of other aquatic and hundreds of thousands of avian species, would be destroyed forever.” Earlier this month, Trudeau announced C$1.5bn in funding to improve response measures. The move was widely seen as an attempt to quell some of the opposition to the proposed pipeline. Aleck welcomed the funding as a way to address the issues arising from the industry already in operation in the region. “But the best way to mitigate an oil spill is not to approve the Kinder Morgan expansion,” she added. When queried on the opposition facing the proposal, Kinder Morgan pointed to a series of links on their website highlighting the company’s funding of orca research and its efforts to engage communities affected by the pipeline. The project has received 41 letters of support from Aboriginal groups located along the pipeline and marine corridor in Alberta and British Columbia, said the company. More than C$13m in funding had been provided to some 98 communities who wanted to learn more about the project, it added. The pipeline does not run under any buildings, the company noted. “Living or being active near our pipeline does not pose any health risk.” Where the pipeline runs near schools, it said, “we are open to working with individual schools or districts to fully support their safety efforts and ensure their emergency response plans and ours are coordinated.” If the project is approved, the company said it would invest more than C$150m in marine spill response in the region. “The investment will fund five new response bases, about 115 new employees and approximately 26 new vessels at strategic locations along BC’s southern shipping lane,” the company said. The millions in funding does little to address what seems to be a certainty of the project – the risk posed to the resident orca whales, said Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “If this population goes extinct, it’s gone for good,” he said. “They’re part of our identity, they’re part of the place in which we live. If we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.”

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