Western Canada Marine Response Corporation responds to fuel spill on Tsleil-Waututh territory

Michael Lowry of WCMRC explains the details of the spill

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PHOTO: Ruth Hartnup / Flickr

Written by: Dev Petrovic, Staff Writer

On February 22, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), who work to clean marine spills, responded to a fuel spill on the Burrard Inlet caused by an oil tanker. The spill took place on the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s territory and resulted in a litre of fuel spilling into the water. 

The Peak had the chance to interview Communication Manager Michael Lowry from WCMRC regarding the response team’s call. 

Lowry explained that the WCMRC gets called when a marine spill occurs by either the source of the spill or by the Canadian Coast Guard. He said by law, “all large vessels of a certain size must have a membership with the response organization” and if an incident occurs, they are required to contact the WCMRC. 

“During that refilling operation, there was a burp of the fuel,” said Lowry, adding that it was bunker fuel that spilled. He said about three litres of fuel spilled onto the deck, from which approximately a litre leaned down the sides of the boat and got into the water. 

He confirmed that while there was no investigation, the WCMRC anticipates no environmental damage. 

When asked about preventative measures for these sorts of incidents, Lowry explained the nature of their role takes place “within the windows” of when spills occur. However, he added that other than responding to spills, they also create “response plans to help mitigate the impacts” of their calls. 

“We’ve done some mapping work of the entire Vancouver Harbour [ . . . ] so that mapping work involves pre-identifying sensitive areas on the coast and so that could be an environmental sensitivity like an eelgrass bed or it could be a cultural First Nation sensitivity.” 

He explained, the WCMRC “work[s] with nations along the coast, including the Tsleil-Waututh, to identify areas that are of concern to them and then we pre-develop protection strategies called geographic response strategies for those areas.

“So certainly, if there had been a threat to any of those sensitivities from that spill already or future spills, we would also have been deploying protection strategies in that area.” 

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation responded to the incident on Twitter saying, “Regardless of size of spill, these spills occur regularly, and cumulatively pose significant negative impacts to our home waters, shorelines, and ecosystem.

This is yet another reminder that oil spills are inevitable and why [Tsleil-Waututh Nation] cannot consent to the Trans Mountain Expansion.”

The Peak reached out to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation for more information but did not receive a response by the publication deadline.