Pollution, oil spills threaten birds in Stanley Park

Conservation group says several bird species are in decline as oil spills threaten birds

Chronic industrial pollution and small spills from oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet are contributing to declining numbers of birds in Stanley Park, according to the conservation program manager for the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

Robyn Worcester said in the past decade conservation group Bird Studies Canada has found a decline in the number of loons and grebes that rely on small fish in the intertidal areas for their food. Birds also feed on the Pacific blue mussels and barnacles that live close to shore.

Worcester said minor oil spills threaten birds, but aren’t the only cause of the declines, but they do play a role along with other factors, such as climate change and fluctuating ocean temperatures.

“We’re seeing declines of these birds,” she said. “Maybe there is stress on their food supply, which is the small fish. Instead of increasing the amount of pollution, I think we have to focus on making things better.”

Worcester is one of three panelists at a discussion tonight on the effects of oil spills on Stanley Park.

The ecology society is holding the discussion to raise the public profile of environmental issues in Stanley Park related to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand its pipeline from Alberta to the Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. The energy company wants to more than double its capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 750,000. The number of tankers going through Burrard Inlet, the company says, would increase from 96 a year to as many as 300.

Kinder Morgan plans to take its proposal to the National Energy Board next year.

If approved, the company plans to start shipping from its expanded facilities in 2017.

Worcester said a major oil spill would have an effect on Stanley Park’s four resident pairs of eagles and its colony of great blue herons.

A spill would also affect the thousands of waterfowl from Alberta and the Northwest Territories that spend the winter in and around the park.

Asked if she was being alarmist by talking about the effects of a major oil spill threatens birds, Worcester admitted she didn’t know anything about the logistics of moving big oil tankers through Burrard Inlet’s First and Second Narrows and to the terminal in Burnaby.

“I know the (First) Narrows is a treacherous area that is hugely biodiverse,” said Worcester. “It’s a highly turbulent and narrow passageway. The Second Narrows is even more treacherous.

“The question is: Is it worth it? To me, it’s not. I would prefer to use less oil than take any chance that it could happen to this place. Wildlife are so much more valuable that it’s worth making the sacrifice.” …

BY KEVIN GRIFFIN/ Originally published by the Vancouver Sun.

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