UBCIC Stands with Heiltsuk: Alarm Over Fuel Spill Impacts to Critical Clam Beds

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver BC – October 14, 2016). Yesterday a tug boat carrying nearly 200,000 litres of diesel crashed in Seaforth Channel, near the Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella.  Leaking fuel continues to threaten the pristine environment in the Great Bear Rainforest.  

The Heiltsuk have confirmed that the spill poses a threat to dozens of species including manila clam beds which are critical to the Heiltsuk economy, providing up to $150,000 per year for the community. The tug boat, called the Nathan E. Stewart, is owned by the Texas-based Kirby Corporation, and was pulling an empty fuel barge.

“We are absolutely outraged that the beautiful waters in Heiltsuk territory are currently covered in a sheen of diesel fuel, when the spill could have been avoided completely,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “We are also extremely aware that if the fuel barge was full, we would currently be dealing with an environmental disaster of massive scale. When Prime Minister Trudeau was elected, he committed to implement a north coast oil tanker moratorium- we are joining the Heiltusk’s call to demand that the Federal Government immediately legislate a complete ban on north coast oil tanker traffic. We also support the Heiltsuk call for improved spill response. It is unacceptable that the first responding vessels from the Canadian Coast Guard were not equipped to deal with a spill, and that the Heiltsuk had to provide their own equipment because of the insufficiency of the equipment provided by the responders. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Premier Christy Clark flew over these waters to visit the Heiltsuk only two weeks ago. Where are they now and how will they help protect this pristine territory?”

Grand Chief Phillip concluded, “This incident starkly brings to mind the very real possibility of a catastrophic spill in Burrard Inlet if Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion proposal is approved by the Federal Government. We absolutely cannot and will not let that happen.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: 604-684-0231