Pipelines Are Putting These Six Incredible Species at Risk in the Salish Sea
by Vicky Wyatt
June 25, 2018
The Salish Sea is one of the richest and most biologically diverse inland seas in the world. Yet the region is at serious risk by the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which will lead to a seven-fold in the number of tankers carrying tar sands oil through the Salish Sea.
The Salish Sea, the coastal waters off British Columbia and the northwestern part of Washington State, is one of the most biologically diverse inland seas in the world. This area of staggering beauty is home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife – over 200 species of birds and mammals are dependent on the Salish Sea ecosystem.
Yet all of it is being put at risk by the expansion of the new Trans Mountain pipeline which will lead to a seven-fold increase in the number of tankers carrying tar sands oil through the Salish Sea. That means more noise pollution for marine life and significantly increased risks of an oil spill in this beautiful part of the world.
Here are six of the most incredible species this pipeline project will put at risk:
The largest octopus on the planet, the giant Pacific octopus, with its three hearts and blue blood, lives on the bottom of the ocean bed. With tentacles that can span 8 meters across, it can move fast (25 mph!), but most of the time it crawls slowly along the ocean-bed with its long tentacles suckering crabs and scallops to eat.
There are only 75 southern resident orcas left in the world, and the Salish Sea is their home. The population has declined partly because of increased noise levels from growing numbers of vessels. The Trans Mountain extension will lead to a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic, increasing noise levels further and as well as risking an oil spill, either of which could push them from endangered to extinct.
Steller sea lions are the largest of all sea lions and live in the northern Pacific Ocean feeding on squid and fish, but their numbers have declined sharply in recent decades and they are listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Sea otters are smart as well as being very photogenic — they often hold each other’s paws while they take a nap, to avoid drifting apart while they sleep, and they are one of the only marine mammals to dislodge rocks and boulders on the ocean bed in the hunt for food. They live across the coasts of the northern Pacific Ocean, including the Salish Sea. Sea otters were hunted almost to extinction, but some populations have rebounded. Oil spills now pose one of the greatest threats to their survival.
Grey whales swim incredible distances – their annual migration stretches to over 12000 miles as they swim from their summer home in Alaskan waters, down North America’s west coast, where pods of these whales can often be seen surfacing, all the way to Mexico.
Leatherback turtles – the biggest turtles alive, growing up to 7ft long, migrate up the Pacific west coast on their way across the Pacific Ocean to Asia. They have the longest migratory path of any turtle – swimming up to 3700 miles. And they dive deeper than any other turtle, staying down for nearly 90 minutes.