Hecate Strait a ‘natural treasure’, oil panel hears

  • Nov. 3, 2003 4:00 p.m.

Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance are “natural treasures” that must be protected from the oil and gas industry, Masset bird expert Peter Hamel told the Royal Society of Canada’s expert panel Friday (Oct. 31) in Prince Rupert, Alex Rinfret writes.
These two areas have not received as much attention as the Gwaii Haanas National Park-Reserve on the southern part of the Charlottes, but they are phenomenally important to birds, Mr. Hamel said, and not enough is known about them.
He told the panel that even after 20 years of intense observation, he still discovering new insights into bird behaviour in Hecate Strait/Dixon Entrance, and how different species interact with wind and weather patterns.
The expert panel, headed by Dr. Jeremy Hall of Memorial University, is considering whether there are any science gaps that need to be filled before the federal government can decide whether or not to lift the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Queen Charlotte basin (from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border, including Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance).
The panel spent six days listening to scientists and other experts in Vancouver, then travelled to Prince Rupert for a one-day workshop at the Crest Hotel, which attracted a roomful of oil industry executives, consultants, First Nations leaders and Prince Rupert promoters.
Mr. Hamel, president of the Delkatla Sanctuary Society, received several laughs during his presentation. He handed out Delkatla membership forms to the four-member panel and urged them to join the society.
“We monitor the birds on the islands year round. We’re not like consultants who come in May and leave in September,” he said, adding that the society has compiled a checklist of 284 bird species seen on Haida Gwaii.
Delkatla Sanctuary Society administrator Margo Hearne told the panel that the society is opposed to lifting the moratorium for several reasons, including the effect of seismic testing on marine life, the toxic elements released during routine exploration and the risk of oil spills.
“The society has worked on the oil and gas issue for the past 20 years,” she said, stressing that there is a lot of research and information out there but no one has put it all together. “We support the continued moratorium on oil and gas development.”