Another reason to stop burning oil

Actually, burning it would probably be better than this. A barge overturned and dumped a loaded diesel truck in waters just metres from Robson Bight, one of those areas where the term "ecologically sensitive" just doesn't do seem to do justice.

Robson Bight, up near the northern end of Vancouver Island on Canada's west coast, is a wilderness area off-limits to just about everyone and everything, except orcas (killer whales to the unwashed), which visit its gravel beaches for a good rubdown. From today's Globe and Mail:

"There couldn't have a been a worse time and a worse place for this to happen," said Jennifer Lash, executive director of Living Oceans. "This is when there's whales all over the place up here and particularly in that exact spot."
"We've got a witness saying [the oil] is streaming up, and this is definitely inside the reserve, about 100 to 200 metres inside the reserve boundary," she said. "So the ship was in a place where it should not have been."

It's not known how much fuel the truck was carrying, but a slick of between two and eight kilometres was reported.

There's only a couple of hundred of this particular population of orcas (Orcinus orca), known inaccurately as "northern residents." It's far too early to know how the oil spill will affect the whales. They are pretty clever animals and the oil is volatile enough that if they breathe the fumes, it may just evaporate before too long.

But the point it is, why do we allow industrial activity next to an "ecological reserve?" Because there is no convenient alternative route to get from the Central Coast of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska to Vancouver and Seattle. The "Inside Passage" may be ecologically sensitive and whales may have grown rather accustomed to taking advantage of its natural attributes, but so have humans. The only rational way to avoid this kind of conflict to ensure our activities don't threaten those of whales.

I can't wait for society to break its oil addiction.


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