The South Coast Ship Watch Alliance has concerns regarding a recent Transport Canada pre-election announcement regarding marine vessel traffic management. The Alliance and other stakeholders have been seeking closure of the 33 anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands that are a source of ongoing environmental degradation and human health concerns. The Alliance is a coalition of community groups from Cowichan Bay, Gabriola Island, Ladysmith/Saltair, the Pender Islands, Salt Spring Island, and Thetis Island.
Anchorage use as an overflow parking lot for the Port of Vancouver has increased from 23 ships in 2009 to 287 ships in 2018. In 2020 this further increased to 498 ships!
The Minister of Transport’s pre-election announcement indicates that a process will be introduced “for reducing overall anchorage usage”. Although Transport Canada officials have been “studying” this issue since the implementation of the 1.5 Billion Dollar Oceans Protection Plan in 2016, there has been very little progress. Promised consultation with coastal community groups and First Nations has never materialized.
The Alliance also supports the completion of the longstanding federal effort to create a Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. We anticipate that this will include the prohibition of the continued use of these anchorages.
According to Alliance spokesperson Bruce McConchie, “Although we welcome indications of some progress in addressing this problem, our focus is on outcomes, namely closure of the anchorages. We support the creation of the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve provided that there is elimination of the 33 current anchorages and prohibition of new Southern Gulf Islands bulk cargo ship anchorages. Although it is laudable that work will commence to design an efficient ship arrival system, as community stakeholders, we, along with First Nations, must be consulted this time in the process. ”
The current 33 anchorages in Southern Gulf Islands are incompatible with a legislated mandate to protect the environmentally sensitive Southern Gulf Island waters.
The anchorages are incompatible with the mandate of Transport Canada and the Port of Vancouver goals for port efficiency and protection of the marine environment.
The anchorages undermine First Nations rights. Article 29 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, affirmed by the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, states “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.”