Governments to investigate diesel spill wreckage in Robson Bight

Feature story - October 21, 2007
Just a day after Greenpeace and Living Oceans announced plans for an underwater investigation into the diesel spill in the ecological reserve at Robson Bight, word was received that the federal and provincial governments will conduct their own underwater investigation.

Greenpeace is concerned about the health of one of the largest resident orca populations near Vancouver Island, after a diesel spill in an ecological reserve.

"Greenpeace is very pleased that the state of the wreckage will be assessed and the future threat to the orcas and marine environment will be determined," says Sarah King, Greenpeace oceans campaigner. "We are anxiously awaiting a timeframe for the investigation.

In late August, a barge loaded with logging equipment and a fuel truck spilled its contents into the critical whale habitat of the Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve at Robson Bight. A total of 19,000 litres of petroleum, mostly diesel, went overboard in the equipment. It is unclear how much diesel remains trapped in the fuel truck and machinery, now lying at a depth of 350 metres.

"We are receiving reports that diesel and hydraulic fluid continue to bubble to the surface, indicating that the wreckage is still leaking petroleum into critical whale habitat," says Jennifer Lash of Living Oceans Society. "We must get a clear picture of what is happening in Robson Bight and develop a plan that addresses impacts on the whales and marine life."

The Coast Guard, acting as lead agency on the Robson Bight spill, initially deemed an investigation unnecessary, spurring  environmental and whale organizations to raise the funds to carry out the investigation themselves. People from both Canada and around the world donated a total of $40,000. to carry out the investigation.

Assuming the governments follow through on their pledge, the money raised by the generous donations will go toward the ongoing research of the impacts on the orcas and other marine species from the diesel spill.