Letter: Second terminal could mean ecosystem collapse

The loss of biofilm is being spoken of in terms of the very possible loss of entire species

Second terminal could mean ecosystem collapse

A letter to our ministers:

We take so much from nature and give back so little, even knowing full well that it is at our own peril. The cumulative impact of constructing a second shipping terminal in the already ecologically fragile Fraser River Estuary may just be the tipping point that pushes it into full ecosystem collapse.

The Fraser River Estuary is home to shorebirds as well as many other bird, fish and invertebrate species, not to mention our struggling Southern Resident Orcas. The broad diversity of life supported by the Fraser River Estuary cannot be overstated. Each species relies on others for its survival, and indeed, we must acknowledge that we also rely on nature for our survival!

It is almost unimaginable but true that the North American continent has witnessed the decline of three billion birds in the last 50 years. A second shocking statistic is that the lower Fraser River, from Hope to the estuary has already lost more than 70 per cent of its natural habitat. Just last year, it was reported in the Journal of Conservation Science and Practice that there are currently 102 species that are at risk of local extinction in the Fraser River Estuary, and that if no action is taken, up to a third of those will have less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving the next 25 years. This includes the probability of extinction for our Southern Resident Orcas.

Scientists and other wildlife professionals have weighed in with their comments on the devastation that they all agree will most certainly be the outcome of such a project. In particular is the loss of biofilm, a mudflat substance containing fatty acids that are crucial to migratory birds. The loss of biofilm is being spoken of in terms of the very possible loss of entire species, such as Western Sandpiper, that depend so heavily on this nourishment to complete their long migrations.

Neighbouring municipalities have also spoken out against this project. Based on our understanding, and despite what the port authority says they can mitigate, we are informed that adverse environmental effects will most certainly take place if the construction is permitted to proceed. Science is clear that nature will be further harmed by this project, and that mitigation efforts to reverse the impacts will not be enough to keep nature in balance.

The Cowichan Valley Naturalists Society is a member of BC Nature, a conservation group that represents more than 50 naturalist clubs and 6,000 members province-wide. BC Nature speaks for nature in demanding policies that protect nature, and we are writing to you today in regard to the proposed expansion of the Roberts Bank Terminal. It is our strong belief that the expansion will be extremely harmful to nature and should therefore not be permitted to proceed.

Bruce Coates

On behalf of the board of directors

Cowichan Valley Naturalists Society