British Columbia

Oil slick endangers Vancouver Island orca habitat

A two-kilometre-long oil slick from an overturned barge is threatening a sensitive whale habitat area off Vancouver Island.

A two-kilometre-long oil slick from an overturned barge is threatening a sensitive whale habitat area off Vancouver Island.

A coast guard spokesman said a barge, carrying a half dozen pieces of logging equipment, including a fuel truck, tipped over in Johnstone Strait, a busy shipping channelon the northeastcoastof Vancouver Island, just before noonMonday. The slick is close to Robson Bight, a protected area where killer whale pods come to rub on the shallow gravel of the beach.

Dan Bate said the accident caused an oil slick that has spread to two kilometres long and 200 metres wide.

"It's not a massive sheen, but… it's still quite early to say how much will come up," said Bate.

Jim Borrowman, who runs a whale watching business from nearby Telegraph Cove, said killer whales were seen heading toward the spill site Monday.

"We've been monitoring this one family, this one matriline of orcas, and they were heading right for the slick there, about an hour ago, but luckily they made a turn and went away from the spill, so we're very happy about that right now," Borrowman said.

Despite the whales' change of direction, Borrowman remained concerned that thewhales might eat fish that are covered in oil.

Experts from the Vancouver Aquarium, Environment Canada and BC Parks are on the scene. The barge owner had hired a company to contain the spill, but the equipment was expected to take some time to arrive.

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