BY MARY LAUCKS & BRIAN SWANSON
For years we have seen freighters anchored off Salt Spring’s shores. Several times we have observed oil slicks or plumes of brownish water coming from these ships.
We are residents of Salt Spring Island and live about four miles south of Ganges with a clear view of ships at two anchorages along the western coast of Ganges Harbour. Last year there were at least 10 ships that moored at these “deep moorage anchorages” and this year there have already been at least two.
Besides the health concerns (from the constantly running generators), privacy issues (at night the boats are close enough to see into houses along the shoreline) and aesthetic concerns (lights and noise 24 hours a day) for anyone living near the shoreline, we are concerned about the fragile environment that is being harmed. One day recently the ZEYNO arrived and immediately dumped some liquid substance in the water. The liquid mass floated and remained together for about half an hour. The tide was pushing the mass of liquid into Ganges Harbour.
The protocol for reporting pollution events is for the public to report any sightings to the Coast Guard. However, despite years of reporting under this protocol these pollution events are still occurring. Any pollution dissipates rather quickly before it can be confirmed by the Coast Guard and it is easy for ships to deny that there has been any dumping. In addition, sporadic aerial surveys of the area have not detected these events in the past.
We used to be able to fish for crab along our waterfront, but we would never consider doing that now. Our fragile marine environment is under attack by this continuous stream of freighters to our front door. Even the propellers cause problems stirring up the bottom and disturbing the marine life this close to shore.
We are very concerned that this onslaught of freighters in our Gulf Islands marine environment is completely against our Islands Trust’s “preserve and protect” mandate. It is so hypocritical to “preserve and protect” our land environment while destroying the marine environment by mooring freighters that travel around the world (possibly carrying alien species which could cause havoc with our indigenous species) and dump sewage and bilge water into our marine environment. These materials end up in our environment on land too and they cause irreparable damage to the marine mammals, fish and birds that call the water their home.
Transport Canada has instituted an Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Anchorages, which has designated use of several places along the shores of Salt Spring Island as freighter moorage areas. Appeals to this agency by many island residents have not resulted in any action. Previous letters to MP Elizabeth May have not been answered and she has not made any headway on this problem.
We call on the community to step up pressure on our local representatives to do something about this menace before the pollution irrevocably harms our environment here in the Gulf Islands!
The writers are Beddis Road residents.