The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) says it is considering new research which shows juvenile salmon from more than 40 populations converge at the Flora Bank estuary near Lelu Island, the site of a proposed LNG processing facility.
Petronas has applied to the CEAA for environmental approval to build its Pacific NorthWest LNG processing and export facility in Port Edward.
Simon Fraser University scientist Jonathan Moore said the marine environment at Flora Bank had the highest abundances of different salmon species compared to other regions of the estuary.
Moore said the research suggests the proposed LNG terminal has more far-reaching risks than previously recognized.
“Salmon came from over 40 populations from throughout the Skeena watershed and beyond that are harvested in at least 10 different First Nations territories,” said Moore.
“This is at least twice as many First Nations as were consulted during the assessment process.
“The LNG terminal proposed for the Flora Bank region poses risks to fish and First Nations fisheries throughout the Skeena Watershed.”
Moore’s findings are based on genetic testing conducted at the Flora Bank site in partnership with the Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries Stewardship program.
He said the CEAA should take the new research into account when preparing its assessment of the facility.
“We’re calling for CEAA to recognize the risks posed not just to local fish and fisheries but to the entire watershed,” he said.
“This letter is hopefully a public call.
“I think there’s a great opportunity for CEAA to use this science to consider the true scale of consequences when they are considering balancing environment and jobs, and jobs not just for LNG but jobs for a salmon-based economy.”
He said First Nations which harvest salmon from populations which are found in the Flora Bank area should also be consulted.
CEAA spokesperson Karen Fish said the agency would consider new relevant information released during the assessment period.
She said the agency was aware of Moore’s findings.
“Some of the studies’ findings were presented by Aboriginal groups to the Agency and the (Pacific NorthWest LNG) technical working group as part of the environmental assessment,” she said.
“The Agency is carefully assessing the potential effects of the project on fish and fish habitat, in collaboration with experts from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
“Included in this assessment is an examination of potential effects on Flora Bank and on marine species, including salmon that rear and migrate upstream from Flora Bank on the Skeena River, taking into consideration measures to prevent or mitigate these potential effects.”
Fish said measures to protect fish and their habitats would be part of legally binding conditions if the project was allowed to proceed.
~ By Alicia Bridges, Black Press