Cowichan Tribes has joined the fight to prohibit freighters from anchoring in coastal waters along the Salish Sea.
Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour said the southern Gulf Islands are the heart of Cowichan Tribes’ marine territory where members harvest food and resources daily to sustain themselves.
“Tanker traffic and anchorages in these inside waters and narrow passages between islands pose an unacceptable risk to the ecological integrity that sustains our food resources, which are critical to the long-term livelihoods and well-being of our members,” said Seymour.
“Canada introduced the Interim Protocol for the Use of BC Anchorages in early 2018. The federal Crown implemented this Interim Protocol in our marine territory without securing Cowichan Tribes’ free, prior and informed consent, and consultation on the protocol’s impacts to our aboriginal and indigenous rights has been shallow, intermittent and rushed.”
Last month, Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor introduced a Private Member’s Bill in Ottawa to amend the Canada Shipping Act to prohibit the anchoring of freighter vessels using coastal waters along the Salish Sea.
It’s becoming a long-standing issue particularly for residents of Saltair, Chemainus, Thetis and Penelakut islands, other Gulf Islands, Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Nanaimo.
Some of the parked freighters are as large as 300 metres in size.
In addition to the noise and light pollution, there are concerns about the affects to the marine environment.
Repeated calls have been made by community groups and First Nations about protecting clam beds, prawns, oysters and endangered species, such as the southern resident killer whales, from the environmental impact of the anchored shipping vessels.
Seymour said Cowichan Tribes has been working tirelessly for decades to restore the ecological function and balance of Cowichan Bay and estuary.
He said a fuel spill or vessel grounding in Cowichan Bay or in the southern Gulf Islands would be catastrophic and would set back the First Nation’s restoration efforts by decades and threaten its food security.
“Cowichan Tribes have repeatedly raised their serious concerns with the federal Crown, which have gone substantially or wholly unaddressed by the Interim Protocol,” Seymour said.
“These concerns include continued bilge pumping, impacts to fish and mammal species from increased underwater acoustic noise due to dropping and weighing anchor, impacts to the ocean floor from dragging of anchor, aerial particulate inputs and small chemical spills that may occur while ships are at anchor in these inland waters, noise and light pollution, and illegal fishing by vessel occupants.”
Seymour said that Cowichan Tribes, as a constituent community of the historic Cowichan (Quw’utsun) Nation, has never ceded and continues to retain its inherent jurisdiction over its marine territory.
“Our leadership, organization, and community express concern for the impacts of commercial and recreational activity, including unauthorized anchoring in our marine territory,” he said.
“We urge all orders of government, industry and other stakeholders to work together with us to manage and protect our resources.”