Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm going to be about five minutes and 30 seconds, but I might talk a little faster because I'm nervous.
Thank you, again, for this opportunity to speak in favour of the oil tanker moratorium act.
As you know, or may even have experienced, British Columbia's north and central coast, along with Haida Gwaii, comprise a unique environment that is increasingly uncommon not just in Canada but in the world. It is an archipelago where lush forests and granite buttresses greet the sea, where grizzlies dig for clams in sight of the open Pacific, where wolves swim to distant islands in pursuit of seals, where the ethereal calls of killer whales are used to pursue salmon migrating thousands of kilometres to freshwater rivers of a forest, and where the summer sun sets on the blows of feeding humpback whales that are surrounded by thousands of shearwaters, auklets, and gulls, all in pursuit of tiny fish that spawn on a sandy shore or on the giant kelps that buffer the fragile coast shoreline.
All this is to say that this assembly of iconic animals makes the B.C. coast qualitatively different from most other exceptional places in the world. Distinctively, these animals are tied to the sea within a food web that knows no boundary between terrestrial and marine. Raincoast's two decades of published science studying coastal species confirms the knowledge that first nations have held for millennia. The coastal environment is an indivisible blend of land and ocean. What befalls the ocean, befalls the species of the land. It is no place for oil tankers.
Three recent academic papers by Raincoast are directly pertinent to the bill before you. First is a paper derived from our 10,000 nautical miles of surveys through the waters that Bill C-48 addresses, a region we refer to as the Queen Charlotte Basin. The paper, “Quantifying marine mammal hotspots” is a response to the overwhelming evidence that humans are contributing to rapid declines in marine species, particularly in coastal areas. This reality dictates the urgent need to identify important places for marine species, places where ocean processes and high species abundance interact to create hotspots.
We found that southeastern Haida Gwaii, outer Queen Charlotte Sound, the Scott Islands, Caamaño Sound, Calvert Island, Aristazabal Island, Chatham Sound, and Dixon Entrance are all places of exceptionally high marine mammal abundance. These areas all lie within the waters identified in Bill C-48.
A second paper on spills and marine mammals evaluates the consequences of potential oil exposure on 21 species of B.C. marine mammals. All marine mammals are inherently vulnerable to oil spills because they live their lives at the air-water interface where oil contact, inhalation, or ingestion can all occur.
We found that British Columbia's killer whales, Steller's sea lions, and sea otters ranked very high in terms of vulnerability to oil spills. Their elevated risk above other marine mammals is due to their small populations, their slow reproductive rates, their specialized diets, and the tendency for large percentages of the population to group together in space and time.
Our third paper on marine birds and chronic oil pollution, along with the book, At Sea with Marine Birds, by Dr. Caroline Fox, identifies marine bird species considered to be at elevated risk of extinction and those with a pronounced vulnerability to oil spills. Marine birds in this region are vulnerable to oil spills in any volume, large or small. Bill C-48 reduces the threat of catastrophic oil spills to at-risk marine birds and their habitats.
Lastly, Bill C-48 addresses the rising problem of underwater shipping noise disrupting the communication and feeding of cetaceans, and the growing threat of ship strikes. As on the east coast, Pacific shipping is a growing concern for large baleen whales like fin, sei, humpback, and the handful of critically endangered North Pacific right whales that inhabit these waters.
Over the last decade, Raincoast has tried to express what this maritime commons means to the people of British Columbia. Simply, it is a coastal archipelago that is priceless and irreplaceable, immeasurable in monetary terms.
We've also articulated the unequivocal evidence of decadal-scale biological changes that marine systems and species are undergoing, the ecological debt, and the perils of hidden consequences. But we held hope that the proposed industrialization of British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Basin was a step too far. My presence here is proof that it was.
As we codify a moratorium on oil tanker traffic into law, whales hunted to near collapse a century ago are returning to their historic feeding grounds. Bill C-48 honours the ecological legacy of this coast and the first nations people who existed with this landscape since time before memory. We will continue our work to ensure that this priceless and irreplaceable coast continues its evolutionary journey, and we will mark Bill C-48 as an essential step in determining that future.