Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

April 25, 2013

Leaders are stepping up to oppose Kinder Morgan's expansion plans

It’s easy to be a cynic when it comes to elections, rolling our eyes at focus-grouped speeches and partisan mudslinging in the run up to voting day. This election, pipelines and tanker traffic are a hot topic, and the list of leaders taking a stand against the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is growing. Last week, we heard stirring words from the Mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby and hard facts from economists and business leaders saying ‘no’ to Kinder Morgan at the West Coast Pipeline Summit. This week, we have seen a growing number of BC political parties declaring their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s expansion plans, surprising many an election cynic and boosting the prospects for the campaign to stop the pipeline.

Image credit: Tsleil-Waututh West Coast Oil Pipeline Summit
Georgia Strait Alliance has been asking our supporters to reach out to candidates of all parties in their riding to find out where they stand on Kinder Morgan, and what they would do about pipelines and tanker traffic if they got elected. We feel that the risk of a catastrophic oil spill that would devastate the beaches, communities and precious marine life of the Salish Sea is simply too great, and safeguarding our coast and our climate demands that we oppose the project. Together with many other organizations, we have been working to encourage BC to say ‘no’ to Kinder Morgan and ‘yes’ to a clean energy future. So indications that leaders are listening to the majority of British Columbians who oppose the Kinder Morgan project are welcome – and help to reign in that election cynicism.

If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to contact your candidates: the more they hear concerns about the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the stronger a mandate the next government will have to take bold action to protect the Salish Sea.

As every cynic knows, talk doesn’t always equal action, so it will be up to us to hold our MLAs to their election promises, and push for the kind of visionary policies that would protect our whole coast forever and make BC a true climate leader.

GSA has lots of exciting activities planned this summer to bring people together to celebrate the Salish Sea and turn up the volume on the Kinder Morgan campaign – stay tuned to this blog for more details!

April 12, 2013

Dawn Breaks on an Exciting New Vision for our Waterfront

By the time the sun was rising over the city of Vancouver around 7:00 AM on March 28th, Communities Atlas Coordinator Rebecca Adams and I had been up for hours, making our way across the Strait by ferry to the first gathering of Georgia Strait Alliance’s innovative Waterfront Initiative.  It was an inspiring day, anticipated to be the first of many occasions bringing together representatives from a broad range of sectors to discuss a common vision – the revitalization of the waterfront of Metro Vancouver, and eventually beyond to the entire Georgia Strait region.

Introducing the Initiative: Ruby Berry
The Waterfront Initiative is being developed to address the challenges faced by our urban ecosystems in the face of increasing population density and the tension between the often conflicting needs of users of our waterfront.  Modeled on the highly successful  Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance of New York and New Jersey (MWA), this initiative has been launched by GSA (under the leadership of Ruby Berry), and will be directed by  a multi-sectoral Waterfront Advisory Committee.  The project promises to help address the social, economic and ecological facets of our waterfront, resulting in a waterfront that serves the many needs of the 3 million residents of the Georgia Strait region and allows for growth within a flourishing ecosystem.

Roland Lewis' Inspiring Presentation
The MWA’s founder and CEO, Roland Lewis was the keynote speaker at the March 28th event, held at the YMCA on Hornby Street in Vancouver.  Representatives from Metro Vancouver, local municipalities, conservation organizations, foundations, labour unions, Port of Metro Vancouver, cultural and science organizations gathered to hear first-hand about MWA’s experience bringing together over 700 organizations to work together to achieve a common vision for the waterfront of New York and New Jersey.  We were inspired by MWA’s approach, as they sought common ground and looked for issues that united often competing constituencies, an approach that fits well with GSA’s own solutions-based focus to addressing threats to the region.  If you were not at the event and would like to learn about Mr. Lewis’ presentation, watch our website for an online version, coming soon.

Participants from a variety of backgrounds were united in their excitement about the possibility of collaborating toward a common vision for Metro Vancouver’s waterfront, and were eager to start the process of figuring out what the initiative will look like for the Vancouver area.  There was a great deal of enthusiasm about the “big tent” approach to collaborating employed by the MWA – membership in MWA is by participation, offering opportunities to a broad constituency with the main criteria being buying in to the big vision.  Through this method, MWA has succeeding in galvanizing the citizens and leaders of the NY/NJ region to change their locality for a better future for all.

The coming months and years promise to be exciting, as the Waterfront Initiative gains structure, develops plans (including measureable goals) and increases its reach.  The resulting transformation of the waterfront of Metro Vancouver into a clean, accessible, productive place holds so much promise.  This vision includes opportunities for recreation, transportation, education and industry, built on a foundation of rich marine life, improved freshwater and natural areas will mean sustainable communities for all of us who live, work and play here.  This may seem a lofty goal, but as seen from the MWA‘s successes, we know that with a lot of work, strong leadership and a lot of collaboration, it is possible.  As one event participant said, it is daunting, but we need to start the process, build relationships, and keep our eyes on the long view.  

April 10, 2013

Vancouver Island Closed Containment Facility Open for Business!

I had the remarkable experience a couple of weeks ago of witnessing the last stages of construction of a home-grown, land-based, recirculating closed containment salmon farm. The facility is being built to prove the economic good sense of growing salmon in a way that doesn’t threaten the survival of wild salmon.

Namgis Nation is now growing Atlantic salmon in their state of the art facility just outside Port McNeill on Vancouver Island.
On March 18, 2013, 23,000 smolts were delivered to the facility, and will now be in quarantine for 4 months. They are doing well and growing, and are on their own “biofilter” which houses bacteria to clean the water.  Since this is a land-based, closed containment “recirculating aquaculture system”, all environmental conditions can be controlled and more than 98% of the water is recycled.  The small amount of outflow that is produced is fastidiously treated so that there is no chance of transfer of disease or pathogens between the wild and farmed fish. See our Campaign News

It’s a deliciously ambitious project that promises to answer the remaining questions about economic and financial sustainability of current closed containment technology. I say current because this is an actively innovative industry.

It takes a long time to develop a new technology, especially when the industry and government fight so vehemently against it. It’s been a remarkable journey to get to this point in aquaculture history.  One of my pivotal memories is from 2006, at a meeting held by DFO to assess the potential of closed  containment technology for growing salmon. Industry and government representatives scoffed at the possibility, declaring it a doomed enterprise from the beginning. I watched as the entrepreneurs, engineers and inventors in the room became increasingly eager to take up the challenge.  There’s nothing quite so inspiring to an inventor as saying, ‘It can’t be done.’

We’re now seeing the results of that challenge being met in the number of closed containment salmon farms in operation or development around the world. The impetus to push for closed containment technology has always been to solve the problems of the dangers posed by the open net cage salmon farms to the wild marine environment. We’re not there yet. The open net farms are still in the ocean, but we’re getting a lot closer and the argument that there isn’t a viable economic alternative is just no longer credible. For more information about the problems with open net cage salmon farms, see Salmon Farming