Environmental groups and local businesses demand investigation into diesel spill near orca habitat

    Lack of action will force groups to conduct their own investigation

    VANCOUVER, Aug. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Greenpeace, Living Oceans Society, and
whale watching companies today called on the Harper and Campbell governments
to investigate a diesel spill that took place inside an ecological reserve,
threatening a population of orca whales.
    A week ago, a barge was being towed when it listed and spilled its load
into the Robson Bight ecological reserve northeast of Vancouver Island. The
ship was carrying a fuel truck estimated to hold 10,000 litres of diesel.
While some diesel fuel has spilled into the ocean, there is the possibility of
over 9000 litres remaining at the bottom of the ocean. Neither the federal nor
provincial governments have made any attempt to inspect the wreckage and
determine the extent of the clean up required.
    The groups say that if the government does not immediately move to
investigate whether the fuel truck continues to leak and if the wreckage can
be removed, they will inspect the site independently. They are requesting a
response from the federal government by noon on September 14th.
    "We are calling on the federal and provincial governments to launch a
submersible camera to immediately inspect the wreckage and develop a strategy
to contain any leaks," says Jennifer Lash of Living Oceans Society. "If the
government is negligent in their responsibility to protect this vital whale
habitat and marine ecosystem, then we will take action ourselves."
    Failure to respond to this crisis emphasizes both government's inability
and unwillingness to clean up disasters of this nature, say the groups. They
warn that the fuel truck could be a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode
in one of the most pristine whale habitats in the world.
    "If we can't mitigate against the leakage of 10,000 litres of diesel,
what would we do with a tanker accident?" says Sarah King of Greenpeace. "This
latest spill is clear evidence that we need to maintain the moratorium on
tanker traffic on the West Coast inside passage. The Harper government should
publicly commit to maintaining the moratorium."
    "If this spill happened on land or in a city, you can bet there would be
a clean up. For local residents, this is no different," says Jim Borrowman of
Stubbs Island Whale Watching.
    "This is our home. The whales are part of our ecosystem and support our
coastal economy," says Bill Mackay of Mackay Whale Watching. "Just because you
cannot see the wreckage doesn't mean it's not a threat."
    These groups are asking the public to help raise the $35,000 required for
this private investigation of the wreckage by donating to the Save Robson
Bight Fund. Donations can be made through Living Oceans Society
(www.livingoceans.org) or at any Coastal Community Credit Union.

    Additional Information:

    A map showing the location of the wreckage and footage of the barge after
    the spill can be found on Living Oceans Society's ftp site at
    www.livingoceans.org/robson/. For technical assistance contact Geoff
    Gilliard at 604-999-6273.

For further information:

For further information: Jennifer Lash, Living Oceans Society, (250)
741-4006; Sarah King, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, (416) 432-4241; Bill
MacKay, MacKay Whale Watching, (250) 956-9865; Dr. Paul Sponge, OrcaLab, (250)
974-8068; Alex Morton, Raincoast Research Society, (250) 949-1664

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