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MacGregor: protecting marine species by aligning environmental policy with marine management

Ancient clam beds, prawns, oysters, and endangered species like orcas are at risk of environmental impact from large vessels anchored in the Salish Sea.

Tuesday October 27, 2020 | COWICHAN VALLEY & OTTAWA

by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends

Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) is going to bat for the natural environment of the Salish Sea.

In the House of Commons yesterday Monday October 26, MacGregor introduced his Private Members Bill C-250 “An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (anchorage prohibition)” for first reading.

The bill is designed to prohibit the anchoring of freighter vessels using coastal waters along the Southern Strait of Georgia. The bill is widely supported among local stakeholders including First Nations, local government, and community activist groups.

In addition to light and noise pollution, anchored ships also pose a threat to the marine environment including the species that depend on the waters and shoreline there. Ancient clam beds, prawns, oysters, and endangered species, such as the southern resident killer whale, are at risk of environmental impact from these vessels.

Alistair MacGregor during Question Period in the House of Commons [House of Commons file photo from February 13, 2018]

MacGregor hopes the new bill will pressure the government to make a change that will ultimately help protect those species.

With some thoughtful political strategy, in the bill MacGregor has outlined the exact same boundaries as the federal government is using for their proposed national marine conservation area. “If the federal government sees value in conserving these waters, I don’t think they should be used as an industrial overflow parking lot,” said MacGregor yesterday.

The Port of Vancouver needs to do a better job at scheduling to prevent a backlog of ships, according to MacGregor whose riding is on Vancouver Island but as the NDP critic for Agriculture has concerns about the natural environment entirely across Canada. He is also a member of the parliamentary committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

MacGregor plans to start a petition to garner further support for this initiative.

Large freighters (some up to 300 metres in length) are oftentimes anchored in the South Straight of Georgia, which has been causing a range of problems for years, says MacGregor. The ships have been shown to swing at anchor (with increased risks of them coming aground).

Alistair MacGregor
Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) has been standing up for the marine environment since his first term in office. [2017 file photo]

The number of freighters and they length of stay off the southern coast of Vancouver Island have both increased over the past 10 years.

Transport Canada’s Interim Protocol on the use of Southern BC Anchorages created a “voluntary protocol” on equitable rotation of these anchorages, which has been largely ignored and not enforced, says MacGregor.

The Vancouver Island MP has been hearing from his constituents, and working with local stakeholders including First Nations, local government, and community activist groups to find a solution to the anchorage problem. He says that from consultations with First Nations in the region, it was clear that First Nations were not consulted, nor did they give their consent when these anchorages were first established.

Alistair MacGregor is in his second term as the Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford (first elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019). He and his wife raise their family on a farm in the Duncan area on the east side of Vancouver Island.

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