Bella Bella Disaster a Reminder of the Need for a Strong Tanker Ban

The recent sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart tug near Bella Bella in the Great Bear Rainforest has underscored the urgency of a permanent, legislated oil tanker ban. Accidents happen and this disaster is a sobering reminder that oil spills are impossible to clean up.

Response crews took over 20 hours to arrive and the spill has still not been contained three weeks later. Beaches remain soaked with diesel and littered with debris. Clean-up efforts have been sluggish and greatly hampered by storms, which have caused containment booms to fail.

Members of the Heiltsuk Nation have consistently described the spill response as “totally inadequate.” Their nation’s waters have been polluted with hundreds of thousands of litres of diesel fuel. Their clam and seafood beds are closed indefinitely, costing them tens of thousands of dollars in the short-term as well as long-term damage to their economy. Video updates and ways to support can be found on the Heiltsuk Tribal Council’s Facebook page.

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A contaminated beach leaches diesel back into the marine environment. Photo by Kyle Artelle.

Although many may see this as a relatively small spill, it has already and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on the Heiltsuk. Sierra Club BC and many other organizations stand in solidarity with the Heiltsuk Nation, who are now caught between a provincial and a federal government too busy blaming each other to make any concrete policy changes that could prevent another devastating spill.

This is a heartbreaking nightmare. Trudeau needs to wake up and take his election commitments for a tanker ban and for a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples seriously.

The Heiltsuk Nation are calling for an immediate implementation of a full and complete tanker ban. A strong tanker ban is the only sure way to protect B.C.’s coastal waters and wild salmon economy from a devastating oil spill. The federal government is about to make an announcement on a federal tanker moratorium, and we need to ensure it is strong, permanent, and legislated by Parliament.

That’s why we’ve set up an action centre where you can submit a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Garneau. Please send a message calling on them to implement a strong tanker ban on B.C.’s coast.

Coastal First Nations already have a ban on oil tankers, using their own laws. It’s about time we joined them to help put an end to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project. Please donate to help us continue this fight.

 

Cover image of diesel-soaked beach by Kyle Artelle.