Coal Ship Anchorages off Gabriola Island

Ancored Coal Ship

This information was first brought to our attention by Clyde Wicks in the September October 2015 edition of the club newsletter.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority is proposing five anchorages for coal ships be approved off Gabriola’s north-east side for large vessels bound for Port Vancouver and other locations.  The site for the northern-most anchorage is due east of the homes located at the north end of The Strand/south end of Sandwell Provincial Park.  The sites of the other four anchorages are between the end of Whalebone Drive and Eva Road just northwest of Dragons’ Lodge.

The area from Entrance Island to Thrasher reef has always been one of the most productive fishing areas around here. Locals anglers harvest up to 10,000 fish per year out of this stretch of water according to DFO creel data. When the fishery collapsed back in the mid-90’s it remained the only area that continued to hold salmon and one we could still go to with the expectation of actually catching something.

It is a very unique marine environment because it sits between two major points and is tucked in behind Entrance Reef. We regularly catch rock fish, ling cod and the occasional halibut while trolling for salmon from Whalebone to the Grande.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority, which is a crown corporation, is proposing to turn our favourite fishing spot into an industrial parking lot for 900′ long freighters that are waiting to go into Vancouver to load or unload.

Gabriola Anchorage SitesThere will be up to five ships at a time allowed. Each one come in, drops its massive anchor and ploughs until it grabs. Then it sits there and drags hundreds of meters of anchor chain around in a circle as it swings in the wind and tide. Each ship could be there for hours or days. As soon as it leaves, another comes and repeats the process but in a slightly different spot. The bottom habitat in that entire stretch of water will be scoured clean in no time.

That’s only one of the concerns we have. A small discharge from one of these ships back in April closed the beaches to swimming and the crab fishery in English Bay. Twenty six years after the Exxon Valdez spill the herring fishery has yet to recover. Entrance and Thrasher reefs are vital to many fisheries in this area. A proposal to anchor freighters between them and turn it into an industrial area with the inevitable pollution is frankly stupid and simply not worth the risk.

This is being forced on us because of the complaints from other areas where these freighters currently anchor. They are trying to spread the risk around. In our view, this is a Vancouver problem and that’s where these ships should be located. There is not one cent of economic benefit for Vancouver Island.

The man leading this is Kevin Obermeyer, president of the Pacific Pilotage Authority. He has publically said the only thing that will stop this in its tracks is an objection from DFO. The response we have received from DFO is, “nobody from the PPA has asked us for our opinion so we can’t respond”. Meanwhile, the PPA is about to spend tens of thousands of our tax dollars on an environmental study.

We need someone from DFO to step up and tell these people how important this particular stretch of water is to numerous species of fish and to local residents who have trolled back and forth through there for decades.

The Fish and Game Club and the BCWF have already written letters to Mr. Obermeyer. That’s great and I’m sure he has taken notice. However, he is still proceeding with the proposal and taking it to the next level which is the environmental study. They have hired Tertra Tech (EBA) of Nanaimo to do the study.

We need more letters to go to Mr Obermeyer and DFO. Mr. Obermeyer reports to Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport. We need you to press the issue with any MP or potential MP you might know. We need you write letters to the editor, attend any public meeting they might call in the future and we need someone from the club to speak to the environmental consultant.

If we don’t press this now we are going to lose one of the most popular and traditional recreational fishing spots in the Nanaimo area.

Contact Information for Tetara Tech (EBA) Nanaimo

#1 – 4376 Boban Drive
NANAIMO, BC V9T 6A7
250.756.2256
250.756.2686
Contact: Mr. Nigel Cavanagh, M.Sc., R.P.Bio.