New Oil Spill Study Highlights Risk of Rising Tanker Traffic in the Salish Sea

October 24, 2013

Vancouver – Today, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Georgia Strait Alliance launched a new initiative to study the potential spread of an oil spill in the waters around Vancouver, the Gulf and San Juan Islands, and along the Kinder Morgan oil tanker route through the Salish Sea.

The environmental groups were joined by high school students from the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, who dropped hundreds of drift cards (small pieces of plywood painted bright yellow) in Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. This event is part of a larger study to produce a series of maps that will improve our understanding of the path oil spills might take and how far spilled oil could travel. The cards will be dropped along the oil tanker route in locations where we know the risk of incidents are higher, and they will carry a simple message: this could be oil.

Members of the public are being asked to get involved in the project by staying on the lookout for the drift cards on local beaches and shores. Each drift card has a unique number identifying the exact time and location at which it was dropped. Those finding the cards will be able to help create maps of potential spill trajectories by visiting a dedicated website,, launched today.

This project is in response to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin its sixty year old TransMountain pipeline, which will result in a 500% increase in oil tanker traffic through the Salish Sea. The study comes as BC and Federal Government documents are highlighting that we are not prepared for a spill, that liability cover is inadequate and that we do not know how to deal with diluted bitumen in the marine environment.

"Drastic increases in oil tanker traffic means a drastic increase in risk of a diluted bitumen spill, and we are woefully unprepared," says Alexandra Woodsworth, Energy and Shipping Campaigner at Georgia Strait Alliance. "Our coastal communities, iconic species and the employment of thousands aren’t worth sacrificing for the sake of fifty jobs in B.C.

"The Salish Sea is a unique coastal environment, already under stress from pollution and climate change. It supports a huge variety of marine life, including wild salmon, endangered killer whales and hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds.

"BC’s southern resident killer whales are already endangered. The very real threat to this small population and other marine species isn’t worth the risk for a project with so little benefit for BC," said Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

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Notes to editors

1. Drop locations: Vancouver Harbour / Gulf Islands (BC) / Boundary Pass / Haro Strait / San Juan Islands (WA). The cards will be dropped from Raincoast’s 68′ research vessel Achiever and accompanying boats.

2. Drop dates: October 24-28, 2013. The first set of drops will be taking place in Vancouver Harbour, October 24th.

3. The new dedicated website is:


Media Coordination contact:
Ian Hinkle, 250-217-3933

Interview contacts:

Chris Genovali
250-655-1229, ext 225 or cell 250-888-3579
Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Alexandra Woodsworth
778-316 5558
Georgia Strait Alliance

About the partner organizations

Raincoast is a Canadian not-for-profit research and public education organization established in1990 to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. We are a team of scientists and conservationists who use peer-reviewed science and grassroots activism to further our conservation objectives. Our work aims to protect the habitats and resources of umbrella species. We believe this approach will help ensure the survival of all species and ecological processes that exist at different scales. We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and their wilderness habitats.

Established in 1990, Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) is a grassroots conservation organization focused on protecting and restoring the marine environment and promoting the sustainability of the Strait of Georgia, one of Canada’s most at-risk environments, its adjoining waters and communities. GSA is committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities, achieved by using the best available science, the precautionary principle, experience, traditional ecological knowledge, and consideration of community values. We have over 1200 members and supporters who work collectively to address root causes of threats to the Strait and find solutions that protect it.