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LETTERS: Ferries have more impact on whales

Dec. 29: Oil tanker traffic not as much of a death knell for orcas as other marine traffic, writer claims
Southern resident orcas.

To the Editor,

Recently, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation claimed that increased oil tanker traffic would be a “death knell” for a pod of Southern Resident killer whales, because the ships’ propeller noise would interfere with the whales’ ability to communicate.  Really?

Off southern Vancouver Island, where Southern Resident orcas frequent, more than 22,500 passages occur each year by vehicle ferries on seven routes: five operated by BC Ferries, and two by Washington State Ferries. Around 900 passages are made through this body of water each year by cruise ships to Seattle and Vancouver.  If BC Ferries adds one ship on one of their three major routes to address future population and visitation growth on Vancouver Island, four daily round-trips by that ship would mean an additional 2,900 annual passages in this waterway.

Tanker traffic through local waters is forecast to increase by 400 ships annually, or an extra 800 passages per year.

Hardly significant when total existing passenger vessel transits through the waters frequented by Southern Resident orcas is acknowledged.

It’s also not significant after transits by Gulf Islands ferries, high speed passenger ferries, tugs, freighters, sport and commercial fishing vessels and summer yachting traffic is tallied.

It’s emotional and rhetorical to suggest that the propellers that push steel hulls through the waters where Southern Resident orcas frequent, are somehow noisier if the cargo is oil, than if the cargo is grain or passengers.

When riding ferries to the mainland to protest pipelines that move oil to be loaded onto tankers, perhaps people should logically consider if the propeller noise emitted into the orcas’ environment from the ferries, or any ship, is really that impactful.

After all, it is not unusual for orcas to be seen in close proximity to ferries.

Roland Smith,

Port Alberni