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Orcas- Climate Change- Pipelines

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Don’t despair: the climate fight is only over if you think it is

The Guardian by  / October 14, 2018

After the panicky IPCC report on climate change, it’s easy for pessimism to set in – but that would be conceding defeat.

Illustration: Nathalie Lees
 ‘Climate change is an inescapable present and future reality, but the point of the IPCC report is that there is still a chance to seize the best-case scenario rather than surrender to the worst.’

In response to Monday’s release of the IPCC report on the climate crisis – which warned that “unprecedented” changes were needed if global warming increases 1.5C beyond the pre-industrial period – a standup comic I know posted this plaintive request on her Facebook: “Damn this latest report about climate change is just terrifying. People that know a lot about this stuff, is there anything to be potentially optimistic about? I think this week I feel even worse than Nov 2016 and I’m really trying to find some hope here.”

A bunch of her friends posted variations on “we’re doomed” and “it’s hopeless”, which perhaps made them feel that they were in charge of one thing in this overwhelming situation, the facts. They weren’t, of course. They were letting understandable grief at the news morph into an assumption that they know just how the future is going to turn out. They don’t.

The future hasn’t already been decided. That is, climate change is an inescapable present and future reality, but the point of the IPCC report is that there is still a chance to seize the best-case scenario rather than surrender to the worst. Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in a gulag for his work with Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, recalls his mentor saying: “They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.” Right now living as decent people means every one of us with resources taking serious climate action, or stepping up what we’re already doing.

Climate action is human rights, because climate change affects the most vulnerable first and hardest – it already has, with droughts, fires, floods, crop failures. It affects the myriad species and habitats that make this earth such an intricately beautiful place, from the coral reefs to the caribou herds. What we’re deciding now is what life will be like for the kids born this year who will be 82 in 2100, and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren. They will curse the era that devastated the planet, and perhaps they’ll bless the memory of those who tried to limit this destruction. The report says we need to drop fossil fuel consumption by 45% by 2030, when these kids will be 12. That’s a difficult but not impossible proposition.

Taking action is the best way to live in conditions of crisis and violation, for your spirit and your conscience as well as for society. It’s entirely compatible with grief and horror; you can work to elect climate heroes while being sad. There are no guarantees – but just as Sakharov and Sharansky probably didn’t imagine that the Soviet Union would dissolve itself in the early 1990s, so we can anticipate that we don’t exactly know what will happen and how our actions will help shape the future.

The histories of change that have made me hopeful are often about small groups that seem at the outset unrealistic in their ambition. Whether they were taking on slavery in antebellum USA or human rights in the Soviet bloc, these movements grew exponentially and changed consciousness and then toppled institutions or regimes. We also don’t know what technological breakthroughs, large-scale social changes, or catastrophic ecological feedback loops will shape the next 20 years. Knowing that we don’t know isn’t grounds for confidence, but it is fuel against despair, which is a form of certainty. This future is as uncertain as it’s ever been.

There have been countless encouraging developments in the global climate movement. The movement was small, fragmented, mild a dozen years ago, and the climate recommendations then were mostly polite, with too much change-your-lightbulbs focus on personal virtue. But personal virtue only matters if it scales up (and even individual acts depend on collective decisions – I have, for example, 100% renewable electricity at home because other citizens pushed our amoral power company to evolve, and it’s more feasible for me to ride a bike because there are now bike lanes all over my city).

The other thing I find most encouraging and even a little awe-inspiring is how profoundly the global energy landscape has already changed in this century. At the beginning of the 21st century, renewables were expensive, inefficient, infant technologies incapable of meeting our energy needs. In a revolution at least as profound as the industrial revolution, wind and solar engineering and manufacturing have changed everything; we now have the technological capacity to largely leave fossil fuel behind. It was not possible then; it is now. That is stunning. And encouraging.

A child in the flood-affected area of Lalmonirhat, Bangladesh, in 2017. What we’re deciding now is what life will be like for the kids born this year who will be 82 in the year 2100.
 A child in flood-affected Bangladesh in 2017. What we’re deciding now is what life will be like for the kids born this year who will be 82 in 2100. Photograph: Zakir Chowdhury/Barcroft Images

Astoundingly, 98% of the energy Costa Rica generates is from non-fossil fuel sources. Scotland closed its last coal-fired power plant two years ago and overall emissions there are half what they were in 1990. Texas is getting more of its energy from wind than from coal – about a quarter on good days and half on a great day recently. Iowa already gets more than a third of its energy from wind because wind is already more cost-effective than fossil fuel, and more turbines are being set up. Cities and states in the USA and elsewhere are setting ambitious goals to reduce fossil fuel consumption or go entirely renewable. Last month California committed to make its electricity 100% carbon-free by 2045. There are stories like this from all over the world that tell us a transition is already under way. They need to scale up and speed up, but we are not starting from scratch today.

The major obstacles to this withdrawal are political, the fossil fuel and energy corporations and the governments obscenely intertwined with them. I called up Steve Kretzmann, the longtime director of the climate policy-and-action group Oil Change International (on whose board I sit), and he reflected on the two approaches to climate action – changing consumption and changing production.

Going after production often gets neglected, and places like Alberta, Canada, like to boast about their virtuous energy consumption projects while their energy production – in Alberta’s case, the tar sands – threatens the future of the planet. Addressing production means going after some of the most powerful and ruthless corporations on earth and the regimes that protect them and are rewarded by them – or, as with Russia and Saudi Arabia and to some extent the US are indistinguishable from them.

Five countries – Belize, Ireland, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica – are already working on bans on new exploration and extraction. Steve told me: “We have to be real about this: this is the oil industry and wars are fought over it. There’s a lot of political power here and there’s a lot of people defending that power.” But he also noted: “The moment it’s clear it’s inexorably on the wane, it will pop.” You can hasten the popping by cutting the enormous subsidies, and by divesting from fossil fuel corporations – to date the once-mocked divestment movement has gotten $6tn withdrawn. As Damien Carrington reported for the Guardian last month, “Major oil companies such as Shell have this year cited divestment as a material risk to its business.”

We also need to shut down production directly, with a just transition for workers in those sectors. Five countries – Belize, Ireland, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica – are already working on bans on new exploration and extraction, and the World Bank sent shockwaves around the world last December when it announced that after 2019 it would no longer finance oil and gas extraction.

Given that the clean energy comes with lots of jobs – and jobs that don’t give people black lung and don’t poison surrounding communities – there’s a lot of ancillary benefit. Fossil fuel is, even aside from the carbon it pumps into the atmosphere, literally poison, from the mercury that contaminates the air when coal is burned and the mountains of coal ash residue to the toxic emissions and water contamination of fracking and the sinister chemicals emitted by refineries to the smog from cars. “Giving up” is often how fossil fuel is talked about, as though it’s pure loss, but renouncing poison doesn’t have to be framed as sacrifice.

Part of the work we need to do is to imagine not only the devastation of climate change, and the immense difference between 2 or 3 degrees of warming and 1.5 degrees, but the benefits of making a transition from fossil fuel. The fading away of the malevolent power of the oil companies would be a profound transformation, politically as well as ecologically.

I don’t know exactly if or how we’ll get to where we need to go, but I know that we must set out better options with all the passion, power and intelligence we have. A revolution is what we need, and we can begin by imagining and demanding it and doing what we can to try to realize it. Rather than waiting to see what happens, we can be what happens. And by the way, the comedian I mentioned: she’s already organizing fundraisers for climate groups.

See article here……

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Clean Harbours Initiative – Stop Forever Fishing

Go Fundme = Please donate here to this amazing initiative.


Help CHI ‘stop the forever fishing’

After twenty-one years of diving as a commercial diver, witnessing what one can only describe as an attack on our marine life by the dumping of plastics, rubber tires and a million different kinds of trash, along with thousands of ‘ghost nets’ in our oceans; I decided to do what the governments and people who dumped into our oceans, were neglecting to do, clean up our harbours and eventually remove the ‘ghost nets’ that are killing marine life of all kinds. ‘Ghost nets’ are nets that are lost and are forever fishing.
A few years back while at work one day, I swam across an old fishing net with no ropes attached to it for hauling up, just sitting there on the bottom, fishing away. A ghost net. This particular ghost net contained many different kinds of marine life; crabs, Flounders, Manta Rays, birds, sea urchins and the most disturbing one of all, a harp seal. In its struggle to get air to breath, it had the net pulled together enough to get itself within a couple feet of the surface, where it drowned. Being a person who spends a tremendous amount of time under water, I know far to well how much fear that animal felt. Heartbreaking…
I have been doing some clean up over the years and have removed some ghost nets, but never documented it. Little over a month ago I began to clean up some ocean trash; plastics, tires and whatever I came across, from harbours and beaches. I have photographed and posted to my Facebook page most of my dives and the trash we collected. Even though I am loving what I’m doing and collecting a lot of ocean trash, I feel like my efforts are no where near enough. My plan is to have a crew of three volunteer divers, two tenders (boat operators) and as many volunteers on the shore, as possible. In order to do this, it will cost much more then I can afford on my own. I need your help.
Please help me in getting this plan put into action. Together we can grow Clean Harbours Initiative into something wonderful. We can inspire millions around the world to start cleaning up the trash from generations before us. To date, I have approximately $25,000.00 of my own money invested in Clean Harbours Initiative. We need so much more to keep the momentum going and keep the trash coming out of the water. So if you want to be a part of this Clean Harbours Initiative, please support us by liking and sharing our pic’s… but most of all, we need your donations. Message me if you can help… Thank you in advance for your generosity! Shawn Bath

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As the fracking protesters show, a people’s rebellion is the only way to fight climate breakdown

The Guardian by George Monbiot / October 18, 2018

Our politicians, under the influence of big business, have failed us. As they take the planet to the brink, it’s time for disruptive, nonviolent disobedience.

It is hard to believe today, but the prevailing ethos among the educated elite was once public service. As the historian Tony Judt documented in Ill Fares the Land, the foremost ambition among graduates in the 1950s and 60s was, through government or the liberal professions, to serve their country. Their approach might have been patrician and often blinkered, but their intentions were mostly public and civic, not private and pecuniary.

Today, the notion of public service seems as quaint as a local post office. We expect those who govern us to grab what they can, permitting predatory banks and corporations to fleece the public realm, then collect their reward in the form of lucrative directorships. As the Edelman Corporation’s Trust Barometer survey reveals, trust worldwide has collapsed in all major institutions, and government is less trusted than any other.

As for the economic elite, as the consequences of their own greed and self-interest emerge, they seek, like the Roman oligarchs fleeing the collapse of the western empire, only to secure their survival against the indignant mob. An essay by the visionary author Douglas Rushkoff this summer, documenting his discussion with some of the world’s richest people, reveals that their most pressing concern is to find a refuge from climate breakdown, and economic and societal collapse. Should they move to New Zealand or Alaska? How will they pay their security guards once money is worthless? Could they upload their minds on to supercomputers? Survival Condo, the company turning former missile silos in Kansas into fortified bunkers, has so far sold every completed unit.

Trust, the Edelman Corporation observes, “is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function”. Unfortunately, our mistrust is fully justified. Those who have destroyed belief in governments exploit its collapse, railing against a liberal elite (by which they mean people still engaged in public service) while working for the real and illiberal elite. As the political economist William Davies points out, “sovereignty” is used as a code for rejecting the very notion of governing as “a complex, modern, fact-based set of activities that requires technical expertise and permanent officials”.

Nowhere is the gulf between public and private interests more obvious than in governments’ response to the climate crisis. On Monday, UK energy minister Claire Perry announced that she had asked her advisers to produce a roadmap to a zero-carbon economy. On the same day, fracking commencedat Preston New Road in Lancashire, enabled by the permission Perry sneaked through parliament on the last day before the summer recess.

The minister has justified fracking on the grounds that it helps the country affect a “transition to a lower-carbon economy”. But fracked gas has net emissions similar to, or worse than, those released by burning coal. As we are already emerging from the coal era in the UK without any help from fracking, this is in reality a transition away from renewables and back into fossil fuels. The government has promoted the transition by effectively banning onshore wind farms, while overriding local decisions to impose fracking by central diktat. Now, to prevent people from taking back control, it intends to grant blanket planning permission for frackers to operate.

None of it makes sense, until you remember the intimate relationship between the fossil fuel industry, the City (where Perry made her fortune) and the Tory party, oiled by the political donations flowing from both sectors into the party’s coffers. These people are not serving the nation. They are serving each other.

In Germany, the government that claimed to be undergoing a great green energy transition instead pours public money into the coal industry, and deploys an army of police to evict protesters from an ancient forest to clear it for a lignite mine. On behalf of both polluting power companies and the car industry, it has sabotaged the EU’s attempt to improve its carbon emissions target. Before she was re-elected, I argued that Angela Merkel was the world’s leading eco-vandal. She might also be the world’s most effective spin doctor: she can mislead, cheat and destroy, and people still call her Mutti.

Other governments shamelessly flaunt their service to private interests, as they evade censure by owning their corruption. A US government report on fuel efficiency published in July concedes, unusually, that global temperatures are likely to rise by 4C this century. It then uses this forecast to argue that there is no point in producing cleaner cars, because the disaster will happen anyway. Elsewhere, all talk of climate breakdown within government is censored. Any agency seeking to avert it is captured and redirected.

If Jair Bolsonaro takes office in Brazil, their annihilistic actions will seem mild by comparison. He claims climate breakdown is a fable invented by a “globalist conspiracy”, and seeks to withdraw from the Paris agreement, abolish the environment ministry, put the congressional beef caucus (representing the murderous and destructive ranching industry) in charge of agriculture, open the Amazon Basin for clearance and dismantle almost all environmental and indigenous protections.

On 31 October, I will speak at the launch of Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square. This is a movement devoted to disruptive, nonviolent disobedience in protest against ecological collapse. The three heroes jailed for trying to stop fracking last month, whose outrageous sentences have just been overturned, are likely to be the first of hundreds. The intention is to turn this national rising into an international one.

This preparedness for sacrifice, a long history of political and religious revolt suggests, is essential to motivate and mobilise people to join an existential struggle. It is among such people that you find the public and civic sense now lacking in government. That we have to take such drastic action to defend the common realm shows how badly we have been abandoned.

See article here……..


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Are we watching a real-time extinction of southern resident killer whales?

The southern resident killer whales that feed and frolic in the Salish Sea have lost three members this year and about 20 per cent of their number in the past decade.

Images of the orca J35 Tahlequah carrying her dead newborn for a heartbreaking 17 days over 1,600 kilometres were seen around the world.

Canadian and American veterinarians and biologists then joined forces in dramatic fashion to diagnose and treat the ailing three-year-old J50 Scarlet from the same pod, but failed to save her life.

Three deaths this summer — including the young male L92 Crewser, which disappeared in June — have focused the world’s attention on the difficulties facing southern resident killer whales like never before.

Now, the world will watch as we bring the 74 remaining community members back from the brink, or witness their extinction.

Baby orca whale is being pushed by her mother, J35, after being born off the coast near Victoria, British Columbia. The new orca died soon after being born. The mother was observed propping the newborn on her forehead and trying to keep it near the surface of the water. MICHAEL WEISS/CENTER FOR WHALE RESEARCH / AP

Biologists and conservationists hope the celebrity of the Salish Sea’s orcas can be used to save them.

“They are a symbol for a lot of species that share their ecosystem and some of them are doing poorly, too,” said Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Marty Haulena.

Sea stars, chinook and sockeye salmon and rockfish populations are all in distress, but considerably less photogenic than orcas.

“Hopefully the southern residents have the star power to get some attention,” said Haulena.

Orcas have strong family bonds, they play, and apparently grieve their losses, making them uniquely relatable.

“That is why we take their deaths so hard,” said Mark Leiren-Young, director of The Hundred Year Old Whale and author of The Killer Whale Who Changed the World.

“The photos of a baby orca leaping through the air that went viral — captioned ‘learning to fly’ — that was J50 Scarlet,” he said. “She was the symbol of a baby boom, the symbol of hope. And this is the whale that we just watched die.”

J16 Slick — the mother of J50 Scarlet, the orca that scientists tried to save this summer — breaches while Scarlet’s brother, J26 Mike, swims nearby last month. They are among the endangered population of southern resident orcas. Pictured Aug. 18, 2018. SEE NOTES / DIRECTION / PNG

Scientists who study the West Coast’s killer whales identify individuals by their dorsal fins and a unique white saddle patch. Each gets a number and then a name, and hence a public persona.

Vets and biologists are now gearing up to provide personalized medical attention to the southern residents.

Veterinary researcher Joe Gaydos of UC Davis, working with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has created individualized health records for every member, like you and I have with our family doctor.

“We need to know a lot more about the individual health of these animals,” said Haulena. “We can’t treat them as a population anymore. We have so few left that we need to know why every individual has died. And we don’t.”

Dr. Martin Haulena, Dr. Brad Hanson, and Trevor Foster prepare to administer an injection of antibiotics to J50.KATY FOSTER/NOAA FISHERIES / PNG

Gaydos has adapted an approach developed for a closely monitored group of mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda.

“(The gorillas) each have a health record, they are all vaccinated, and they are treated medically when something goes wrong,” Haulena said.

American researchers are able to collect feces, breath samples and “snot” from the southern residents, and use darts to collect samples of skin and blubber, according to Lynne Barre, southern resident killer whale recovery co-ordinator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We slice and dice these samples and cross-reference it with other data in every way we can think of to get a full picture,” she said.

The physical condition of the whales is assessed from photographs and video taken from the water’s surface and from aerial drones.

“So we watch and listen and sometimes even smell their breath,” she said.

Blubber samples in particular reveal the presence of toxins, from long-banned DDT and PCBs to newer threats such as PBDE flame retardants.

“Some of these are endocrine disrupters that are persistent in the environment and accumulate over time, affecting reproduction and the immune system,” said Barre.

A study published last week in the journal Science found that southern residents are moderately affected by PCBs compared to killer whale groups in Brazil and Europe, yet the contamination is predicted to negatively affect their ability to reproduce.

PCBs accumulate and concentrate in fish-eating fish such as chinook.

One sign of hope is that the whales continue to mate and conceive.

Females from J, K and L pods are showing signs of pregnancy and in mid-September the southern residents from all three pods merged into a super-pod near Race Rocks on Vancouver Island.

“We heard that there was a lot of social activity going on,” said Barre.

Time for action

The southern residents that make their summer home in the Salish Sea between the Fraser River and Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island haven’t successfully produced a calf in three years.

Three members died just this summer, including the male L92 Crewser, who was declared missing in June. He was just 23 and in his prime.

Just a decade ago, surviving calves were being born at a rate of three, four or five per year. But since November of 2015, not a single one has survived.

Forty surviving calves have been born to the group since 1998. Over the same period, 73 southern residents have died.

Most cetaceans have a higher mortality rate in the first year of life, said Haulena.

But many of the other 17 orcas that perished since 2012 were in their prime — 13, 18, 20 and 23 years old.

“Orcas in their prime absolutely should be surviving,” he said.

A 27-year-old male, K25, has recently showed signs of decline in aerial photos, which Barre characterized as a “warning signal.”

Evidence points to a lack of food — mainly chinook salmon — as a threat to the orcas’ survival. Underwater noise from shipping, ferries, commercial and recreational fishing boats, and whale watchers interferes with their ability to locate what little prey is available.

Six groups, including the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the David Suzuki Foundation, asked the courts on Sept. 5 to compel the federal government to issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to protect the southern residents and their main food source, chinook salmon.

The chinook are themselves in deep crisis. The Columbia River chinook are listed as endangered in the U.S., and last week Fisheries and Oceans Canada released data showing this season’s chinook returns in the Fraser River were well below the historical average.

The southern residents, too, are listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act. The next status after endangered is “extirpated,” meaning they are reproductively non-viable, or dead. Ottawa is taking public input on the Species at Risk Act recovery strategy for northern and southern resident killer whales until Nov. 3.

Earlier this year the litigating groups asked Ottawa to curtail sport fishing and whale watching in critical feeding areas. The government responded by reducing the chinook catch by 25 to 35 per cent and increasing the buffer zone for whale watching to 200 metres.

Parts of the most important foraging areas in the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca were closed to all fishing and partial closures were implemented at the mouth of the Fraser River.

“Since the death of three whales, including J50, we have upped our ask,” said Misty MacDuffee, a biologist for Raincoast. “Now we want the closure of all marine-based commercial and sport chinook fisheries.”

The groups are also calling for a full ban on whale watching for the southern residents.

Up to two dozen whale-watching vessels follow the group daily in their main feeding areas on the Salish Sea, she said.

A killer whale surfaces with a whale watching boat looking on in the Strait of Georgia. CA2HILL / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Whales or oil?

The plight of the southern residents is now central to the progress of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

In overturning the pipeline approval, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the National Energy Board should have considered the impact of increased tanker traffic on southern resident killer whales.

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson hinted this week that further protections for killer whales could come before cabinet decides whether to approve the pipeline again, after the National Energy Board’s do-over review is complete.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would increase the number of large vessels entering the Port of Vancouver by about six per week. The port currently serves 3,200 vessels a year.

Ottawa’s $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan — created in advance of Trans Mountain’s original approval — included plans to improve prey availability for the whales and to reduce underwater noise that interferes with the their ability to communicate and locate prey.

The government will invest an additional $167 million over five years in the Whales Initiative, supporting research, enforcement and education, and adding fisheries officers to ensure compliance to new regulations by anglers. Aerial surveillance over critical habitat has been increased by 30 per cent, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is spending $9.5 million on chinook habitat restoration on the Fraser, Thompson and Skeena Rivers and salmon streams on Vancouver Island, much of it in collaboration with First Nations.

A $150-million industry-funded oil spill protection plan was suspended when the pipeline approval was overturned.

A recent study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology suggests that a major oil spill near the orcas’ summer feeding grounds could affect up to 80 per cent of their critical habitat.

Animals such as orcas that spend a lot of time at the water’s surface are most likely to suffer from contact and ingestion of diluted bitumen, the main product to be exported by the proposed pipeline expansion, the authors said.

The port has implemented two programs aimed at reducing the impact of shipping on the southern residents.

Vessels travelling through the Strait of Juan de Fuca have been asked to shift their route as far south as possible within the shipping lane to create more distance between the ships and foraging areas.

In its fourth year, Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation is a voluntary program in which ships are asked to reduce their speed through the Haro Strait to reduce underwater noise.

Underwater microphones installed in the Haro Strait found that noise created by slower vessels was “significantly” reduced, by about 6 to 11 decibels.

“We asked vessels to slow down to 11 knots,” said Carrie Brown, the port’s director of environmental programs. “We’ve had 87 per cent participation by ships in the current slowdown period.”

The program doesn’t have a specific threshold or goal for the level of underwater noise; instead it operates on the notion that any reduction in noise will be of benefit.

American authorities are considering dramatic action to improve chinook stocks and there is real public pressure to demolish four Lower Snake River dams.

Washington Governor Jay Inlee’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force has just released draft recommendations that include expanding hatchery programs, real-time orca monitoring to close active fisheries when the southern residents are in the area and removing barriers from a river system that has 14 hydroelectric dams.

After the removal of a dam on the Elwha River in 2014, chinook are returning to spawning areas above the former dam site, according to the Klallam Nation.

A massive increase in local populations of harbour seals and sea lions is also contributing to prey scarcity, because they also selectively eat chinook, according to recent research published by the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

The report also contemplates “management actions” to control the number of harbour seals in Puget Sound. Earlier this summer, the U.S. federal government authorized a cull of sea lions in the Columbia River.

“If we don’t increase the availability of chinook and lessen the toxic load in the chinook population then we are watching (the southern residents) vanish,” said Leiren-Young.

See article here…….

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New pipeline review not going far enough out to sea, environment group says

OTTAWA — The back-to-the-drawing board environmental review of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will assess the impact of increased oil tanker traffic out to about 12 nautical miles from the B.C. coastline.

The National Energy Board released the decision Friday as it laid out the schedule for reconsidering its approval of the project by the Feb. 22 federal government deadline.

Dr. Robert Steedman, chief environment officer of the NEB, said the decision to limit the area of the assessment to 12 nautical miles, known as the territorial sea limit, was based on the comments received from interested parties. The precise reasons for the decision won’t be made public by the board until next week.

However, one of the environment groups that sued Ottawa over its original environmental review of the project, says the distance does not cut it.

“From the get go it looks like a political exercise, not an environmental one,” said Misty MacDuffee, a conservation biologist at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation in British Columbia.

Raincoast was one of the groups behind the successful lawsuit challenging federal approval of the expanded pipeline. It argued, and the court agreed, that cabinet and the National Energy Board erred in not considering the negative impacts of additional oil tankers on marine life, particularly on the highly endangered southern resident killer whales.

The court also found that the federal government had failed in its duty to consult with affect Indigenous groups.

The NEB had looked at some of those things in its 2015 review and even said it expected the increased tanker traffic would have a negative impact on the orcas. However, it also decided that marine shipping was outside its purview so it didn’t take that into account in deciding to give the project the green light.

After the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the approval in late August, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi ordered the NEB to go back and do a new review of the marine tankers.

Raincoast had wanted the new review to cover the area known as the exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from shore. MacDuffee said the 12-mile distance could leave out a number of endangered or at-risk whales, such as blue whales, finn whales and sei whales.

MacDuffee said the NEB’s decision is very disappointing and might simply be setting the project on another collision course with the courts for failing to do a broad enough assessment.

Steedman said organizations can still submit comments to the board about the impact on other whales if they wish.

It’s estimated the project, which will triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, would result in an additional 30 oil tankers traversing the Burrard Inlet each month.

The NEB review will look at the environmental effects those extra ships will have on species at risk, the potential for oil spills and any mitigation measures that are feasible to prevent negative impacts from increased tanker traffic.

The board is imposing filing deadlines for interveners starting this month, will hear oral traditional evidence by Indigenous groups in November and December and will hear potential oral summary arguments in January.

The federal government has appointed former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities. It has put no deadline on those consultations.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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Regulator outlines next steps for Trans Mountain environmental review

by Kathleen Harris · CBC News ·

Interveners have tight deadlines to present evidence of projects’s impact on marine environment.

An oil tanker anchors at the terminus of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. (Chris Corday/CBC)


The National Energy Board has laid out next steps for a review of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project’s effects on the marine environment, and has given 99 stakeholders tight deadlines to make their submissions.

The federal pipeline regulator is giving the company and key federal government departments until the end of the month to present evidence, while other Indigenous, industry and environmental stakeholders will have until Nov. 20 to file their submissions.

Last month, the Liberal government gave the NEB 22 weeks to review the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to consider the project’s impact on the marine environment.

Dr. Rob Steedman, the NEB’s chief environmental officer, said he is prepared for a “very busy” period as the regulator works to meet the Feb. 22 deadline.

“I’m not going to say it’s not a challenge,” he told CBC News. “The process is designed, as we always do, to make sure there’s fairness and transparency on the information that’s filed, that people can listen to the oral sessions, they can see all the transcripts and documents in public.”

Steedman said that because the subject areas for review are narrow — limited to the impact of the expansion and increased tanker traffic on the marine environment, and specifically on the resident killer whale population — the NEB is confident is can meet the deadline.

He said he wouldn’t “speculate” about whether those impacts could be considered too great to be overcome with mitigation measures.

“We’ll get the evidence from everyone that has it to offer, and who offered to participate, and the board will have to consider those facts,” he said. “They’ll have to weigh the facts and consider the conflicting evidence which inevitably comes up.”

The NEB also revealed its review will assess the impact of increased oil tanker traffic out to about 12 nautical miles from the B.C. coastline.

Steedman says the distance was based on comments received from interested parties.

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation in British Columbia​, one of the environment groups that sued Ottawa over its original environmental review of the project, said the distance doesn’t go far enough.

“From the get-go it looks like a political exercise, not an environmental one,” Misty MacDuffee, a conservation biologist at the foundation, told the Canadian Press.

MacDuffee said the 12-mile distance could leave out a number of endangered or at-risk whales. Raincoast had wanted the new review to extend 200 nautical miles from shore.

Criticism from appeal court

On Aug. 30, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval of the $7.4-billion pipeline project, which would nearly triple the flow of oil from Alberta’s oilsands to the West Coast.

The court criticized the lack of attention given to how increased tanker traffic off British Columbia’s coastline would affect the environment, and said Canada’s efforts to meaningfully consult with Indigenous people, as required by law, fell short.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced that retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci will lead the new consultation process with Indigenous people on the project.

Iacobucci will act as the federal representative, designing and overseeing the consultation with affected Indigenous communities.

The government has said it does not plan to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal ruling that halted the project.

With files from the Canadian Press.

See article here…….

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Orca survival may be impossible without Lower Snake River dam removal, scientists say

The Seattle Times / October 15, 2018 by Lynda V. Mapes

Southern resident orcas that frequent Puget Sound may not survive without breaching the Lower Snake River dams to help the salmon the orcas live on, scientists say.

Leading killer-whale scientists and researchers are calling for removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River and a boost of water over the dams to save southern resident killer whales from extinction.

The scientists sent a letter Monday to Gov. Jay Inslee and co-chairs of a governor’s task force on orca recovery.

Based on the science and the urgency of the current threats confronting the southern residents, the scientists recommended two top priorities for the task force in its recommendations for orca recovery: Immediately initiate processes to increase the spill of water over the dams on the Columbia and Snake, to create more natural river conditions, and to breach the Lower Snake River dams.

The letter comes as the death of three southern resident orcas in four months last summer, one from L pod and two in J pod, have added fuel to the long running-campaign to free the Snake.

Lower Snake River dam removal has been debated in the region for decades as a way to boost salmon runs. Three federal judges in a row in five rulings since 1994 also have called for an overhaul of hydropower operations by federal agencies at eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers to boost salmon survival, including a serious look at dam removal. The latest court review now underway will not be concluded until 2021.

However, the scientists called for urgent action now because the orcas are continuing to decline and need food. “Orca need more chinook salmon available on a year-round basis as quickly as possible,” the scientists wrote.

As orca advocates joined forces with dam busters, BPA has pushed back. In a recent press briefing, BPA managers said the Columbia and Snake produce only some of the fish the orcas use, and that the four Lower Snake River dams are important to the region.

The whales depend on chinook from rivers all over Puget Sound as well as the from the Fraser, Columbia and Snake rivers, a recent listing of fish runs important to the whales shows.

The first 15 salmon stocks on the priority list include fall, spring and summer Chinook salmon runs in rivers spanning from British Columbia to California, including the Fraser, Columbia, Snake and Sacramento rivers, as well as several rivers in Puget Sound watersheds.

Columbia and Snake rivers were once the biggest chinook producers in the world, but recovery efforts have been a long struggle.

Hatchery chinook recently have been surging, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows. Yet even good returns are a fraction of historic numbers. Wild runs have remained far below the level of adult returns required for recovery — let alone to prevent extinction.

Signing the letter were Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, and Deborah Giles, who is resident scientist at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs and the science and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca.

Their research shows a steady increase in mortality and orca pregnancy failure due to lack of adequate food. Today the orca population among the southern residents stands at just 74 individual whales — a 35-year low.

As early chinook runs have declined on the Fraser, Columbia River fish runs have become even more important, Wasser said. “If they didn’t have that Columbia River infusion, they would really be cooked. … The Columbia replenishes you, and sustains you until the Fraser peaks. I don’t think unless you have those Columbia runs you can save these whales.”

The letter comes as the governor’s task force on orca recovery is set to convene one of its last meetings before making its recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee, due Nov. 16.

The meetings are scheduled for all day Wednesday and Thursday at the Tacoma Landmark Convention Center at 47 St. Helens Ave., in the Plaza Grand Ballroom.

The agenda includes three hours scheduled for public testimony between 5 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday. A summary of public comments shows a bigger consensus for Lower Snake River Dam removal than for any other action considered for orca recovery.

See article here……..

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New NEB pipeline review not going far enough out to sea, environment group says

Updated: Oct 16, 2018

OTTAWA — The National Energy Board will consider the impact of more oil tankers from the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline on marine life out to 12 nautical miles off the B.C. coastline.

But the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, one of the groups which sued Ottawa over the original environmental review of the project, says that distance does not cut it.

Misty MacDuffee, a conservation biologist at the foundation, says the distance — and the fact that groups like hers have just five weeks to submit evidence about their concerns — suggests to her this second review is just a political exercise and may result in another court challenge.

The second round of environmental assessment comes after the Federal Court of Appeal threw out approval for the pipeline project in August, citing insufficient consultation with Indigenous communities and the lack of attention paid to the environmental impacts from increased oil tanker traffic off the coast.

MacDuffee says limiting the zone for assessment to the 12 nautical mile territorial limit will leave out a number of at-risk species like blue whales and finn whales, and that the NEB should look at the impact all the way to what is known as the Exclusive Economic Zone, which is 200 nautical miles off shore.

Dr. Robert Steedman, chief environment officer of the NEB, says the distance decision was based on the comments received from interested parties and that concerns about any species at risk can still be raised by interveners in their submitted comments.

See article here…….


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Rise For Climate – Build Our Future Not a Pipeline! Event

RISE FOR CLIMATE – International Day of Action

Vancouver March & Rally
Vancouver Art Gallery
Georgia & Howe


The forests are on fire and the air is thick with smoke. The water is polluted and the planet is being destroyed. Yet Prime Minister Trudeau continues to be hell-bent on wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on buying one ageing Tar Sands pipeline and trying to build another.

Join hundreds of thousands mobilizing around the world on September 8. We are putting forward a vision for a sustainable future We are working together to show the alternatives, and we are growing!

Bring your friends, family and co-workers as we gather to demonstrate and reaffirm our commitment to fighting for climate justice and a better world. We are working to build our future, not a pipeline. We demand the government of Canada do the same.

Fund Housing, Healthcare, Education & Green Energy – NOT PIPELINES!

Sponsors: Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver, UBC 350, Vancouver 350

This event takes place on the traditional, unceded, occupied territories of the səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

More information on “Rise for Climate” International Day of Action: https://riseforclimate.org/

“On 8 September we will rise together in our neighbourhoods to take action, telling the story of the communities we want, and showing governments how to follow our lead. We’ll connect all our local efforts globally to help make an unstoppable wave of people’s climate leadership – from our town halls, to our schools, and places of worship.”

For more information: climateconvergence604@gmail.com / 778-889-7664