British Columbia

Heiltsuk First Nation fears wildlife affected by diesel spill on B.C. coast

But the situation report says no wildlife covered in oil or fuel have been documented.

Response team collects dead species to test for cause of death

A sea otter swims in the area where the Nathan E. Stewart tug boat ran aground on Oct. 13, 2016 and spilled more than 200,000 litres of diesel into the waters off Bella Bella, B.C. (Tavish Campbell)

The Heiltsuk First Nation says it's afraid that diesel fuel spilled from a sunken tug off British Columbia's Central Coast is affecting wildlife and the food supply of its people.

It points to the discovery of dead animals in the area. 

Orcas swim near a response vessel working to clean up spilled diesel fuel from the Nathan E. Stewart. (Tavish Campbell)

The tugboat Nathan E. Stewart was carrying more than 200,000 litres of diesel when it ran aground and sank about 28 kilometres from Bella Bella on Oct. 13.

A situation report says the volume of the spill is still being calculated based on what has been recovered or cleaned up, but current estimates show 105,000 litres of fuel leaked.

The Heiltsuk First Nation says humpback whales, sea otters and marine birds continue to be spotted near, and in, the sheen, while wildlife assessment teams have spotted a dead seal and dead crabs in the past week.

The situation report says some of the dead species have been collected for testing to determine what specifically caused their death.

On Oct. 24, the report said that a rhinoceros auklet — a puffin-like bird — had been seen to be visibly impacted by the fuel.

The Nathan E. Stewart, owned by Kirby Offshore Marine, sits in the waters off Bella Bella on Oct. 28, 2016. (Tavish Campbell)

Kelly Brown, director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, says it is "disturbing" to see the community's food and the marine life appear to be so severely affected.


  • An earlier version of this story said incorrectly that a sea otter had been found dead as a result of the spill. In fact, the unified command for the incident at Bella Bella says it has not received any reports of a dead sea otter.
    Oct 31, 2016 5:15 AM PT