British Columbia

Vancouver oil spill could have far reaching impacts: expert

An oil spill off Vancouver's English Bay may be mostly contained, but a fisheries expert warns the economic and environmental consequences may be more far reaching than expected.

Rashid Sumalia says bunker fuel is difficult to clean up, and would adversely impact marine life

File photo of oil previously found on Second Beach in Vancouver in 2015 by Dr. Peter Ross from Vancouver Aquarium. (Vancouver Aquarium)

An oil spill off Vancouver's English Bay may be mostly contained, but a fisheries expert warns the economic and environmental consequences may be more far reaching than expected.

Transport Canada confirmed on Friday that the source of pollution is the cargo ship Marathassa.

The Canadian Coast Guard said the 2,700-litre spill of what is believed to be bunker fuel is 80 percent contained. However, beaches in Vancouver are showing signs of contamination, and the slick has reached West Vancouver.  

Rashid Sumalia, director and professor with the fisheries economic research unit at the University of British Columbia, says the spill will not only impact marine life, but also food security and jobs related to fishing and tourism.

"Tourism is a lot about perception, so once people start to think that our waters are polluted with toxic oil, that can really affect [the tourism industry]," he said. "The consequences of that can be long because perceptions can hang on for a long time."

Sumalia says it could be a while before the full economic and environmental impacts are felt. Bunker fuel is very difficult to clean up, and some of it is bound to be left behind in the waters, he said.

He points to a 2007 spill in San Francisco Bay, where 58,000 gallons (220,000 litres) of bunker fuel leaked from a container ship that had rammed into a bridge.

That spill affected many fish embryo, Sumalia said. It was also reported that the slick killed 6,800 birds and thousands more fish.

To hear the full interview with Rashid Sumalia, listen to the audio labelled: Fisheries expert evaluates possible costs of Vancouver oil spill

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of bunker fuel that was spilled in San Francisco Bay in 2007. In fact, the correct number is 220,000 litres.
    Apr 10, 2015 1:38 PM PT

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