Scientists Condemn The Flawed Review Process For Lelu Island

By Roy L Hales

There are more than 130 of them, from Alaska, Russia, the West Coast as far south as California and east to the Atlantic coast. Their joint letter refers to “Misrepresentation,”  “lack of information” and “Disregard for science that was not funded by the proponent.” Scientists Condemn The Flawed Review Process For Lelu Island, at the mouth of British Columbia’s Skeena River, as “a symbol of what is wrong with environmental decision-making in Canada.”

Scientific Integrity In Decision-Making

9 of the scientist condemning the CEAA review are professors at the University of Victoria. Photo shows U Vic students listening to a UN official in 2012 by Herb Neufeld via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

“This letter is not about being for or against LNG, the letter is about scientific integrity in decision-making”, said Dr. Jonathan Moore, Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management, Simon Fraser University.

One of the other signatories is Otto Langer, former Chief of Habitat Assessment at Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), who wrote:

“The CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) report is less than scientific, full of speculation and wishful thinking. I was one of the first salmon biologists to walk on Flora Bank in 1970. We were assessing a shipping port proposed for that area. The port was never built due to the overwhelming ecological importance of the area. It is ironic that some 46 years later that part of the estuary is faced again with this conflict. A natural eelgrass salmon habitat such as Flora Bank cannot survive if it is subjected to pile driving, dredging, lights, ship and dock noises, spills, etc. We must keep industry out of this area.”

Decision Time For The Federal Government

Screen shot from a Liberal campaign video in which Trudeau promised to bring real change to Ottawa.

These are tough words for a Federal government which promised to put teeth back in the gutted environmental review process.

In Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s defence, this is yet another problem he inherited from the previous administration and  the task of cleaning up this mess seems enormous.

That said, this government was aware the environmental review process was broken before it was elected and has not intervened to at least stop the process from moving forward until they are prepared to take action.

The Liberal Government appears to be facing a tough decision. So far, they have attempted to work with the provinces. On Lelu Island, as well as the equally controversial proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline  expansion and Site C Dam project, continuing to support Premier Clak’s policies in this manner would appear to necessitate betraying the trust of the Canadian people.

Here are a few choice excerpts from the public letter that more than 130 scientists sent to Catherine McKenna, Prime Minister Trudeau and :

Re: Misrepresentation:

8 of the scientist condemning the CEAA review are professors at the University of British Columbia. Photo of UBC by abdallahh via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

” … The CEAA draft report has not accurately characterized the importance of the project area, the Flora Bank region, for fish. The draft CEAA report1 states that the “…marine habitats around Lelu Island are representative of marine ecosystems throughout the north coast of B.C.”. In contrast, five decades of science has repeatedly documented that this habitat is NOT representative of other areas along the north coast or in the greater Skeena River estuary, but rather that it is exceptional nursery habitat for salmon2-6 that support commercial, recreational, and First Nation fisheries from throughout the Skeena River watershed and beyond7. A worse location is unlikely to be found for PNW LNG with regards to potential risks to fish and fisheries….”

Re: Lack of Information

” … CEAA’s draft report concluded that the project is not likely to cause adverse effects on fish in the estuarine environment, even when their only evidence for some species was an absence of information. For example, eulachon, a fish of paramount importance to First Nations and a Species of Special Concern8, likely use the Skeena River estuary and project area during their larval, juvenile, and adult life-stages. There has been no systematic study of eulachon in the project area. Yet CEAA concluded that the project posed minimal risks to this fish…”

Re:”Disregard for Science That Was Not Funded By The Proponent

5 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review are from the University of Washington. Photo is Mary Gates Hall, in the University of Washington by PRONam-ho Park Follow via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

” … CEAA’s draft report is not a balanced consideration of the best-available science. On the contrary, CEAA relied upon conclusions presented in proponent-funded studies which have not been subjected to independent peer-review and disregarded a large and growing body of relevant independent scientific research, much of it peer-reviewed and published…”

Re: “Inadequate Consideration Of Multiple Project Impacts

” …The PNW LNG project presents many different potential risks to the Skeena River estuary and its fish, including, but not limited to, destruction of shoreline habitat, acid rain, accidental spills of fuel and other contaminants, dispersal of contaminated sediments, chronic and acute sound, seafloor destruction by dredging the gas pipeline into the ocean floor, and the erosion and food-web disruption from the trestle structure. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada provided detailed reviews12 on only one risk pathway – habitat erosion – while no such detailed reviews were conducted on other potential impacts or their cumulative effects…”

Re: Unsubstantiated Reliance On Mitigation

5 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review are from the Skeena Fisheries Commission. Photo is Coast mountains near the mouth of the Skeena River by Roy Luck via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

” … CEAA’s draft report concluded that the project posed moderate risks to marine fish but that these risks could be mitigated. However, the proponent has not fully developed their mitigation plans and the plans that they have outlined are scientifically dubious. For example, the draft assessment states that destroyed salmon habitat will be mitigated; the “proponent identified 90 000 m2 of lower productivity habitats within five potential offsetting sites that could be modified to increase the productivity of fisheries”, when in fact, the proponent did not present data on productivity of Skeena Estuary habitats for fish at any point in the CEAA process. Without understanding relationships between fish and habitat, the proposed mitigation could actually cause additional damage to fishes of the Skeena River estuary…”

Read the letter

Signatories, Grouped By Affiliation

 

Aquatic Ecologist
1. Dawn Remington, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Aquatic Ecologist.
2. Jennifer Harding, Ph.D., Aquatic Ecologist.

Athabasca University
1. Leslie M. Johnson, Ph.D., Professor, Athabasca University.

Botanists
1. Rosamund Pojar, M.Sc., Botanist, Skeena Region

British Columbia Institute of Technology
1. Marvin Rosenau, Ph.D., Professor, British Columbia Institute of Technology.
2. Eric M. Anderson, Ph.D., Faculty, British Columbia Institute of Technology.

British Columbia Ministry of Environment
1. R. S. Hooton, M.Sc., Former Senior Fisheries Management Authority for British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Skeena Region.

Brock University
1. Jeff Stuart, Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Brock University.

California Academy of Sciences
1. John E. McCosker, Ph.D., Chair of Aquatic Biology, Emeritus, California Academy of Sciences.

Carlton University
1. Steven J. Cooke, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation, Carlton University.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
1. Emma J. Rosi-Marshall, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance
1. Alejandro Frid, Ph.D., Science Coordinator/Ecologist, Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance

Consulting Ecologist
1. Karen Price, Ph.D., Consulting Ecologist, Skeena Region
2. Len Vanderstar, B.Sc., R.P.Bio., Consulting Ecologist, Skeena Region

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
1. Otto E. Langer, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Fisheries Biologist, Former Chief of Habitat Assessment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Dragonfly Ecological Services
1. Karen Kubiski, M.Sc., P.Ag., Dragonfly Ecological Services.

Duke University
1. Emily Bernhardt, Ph.D., Professor, Duke University.

Ecosystem Biologist
1. Karen Diemert, B.Sc., R.P.Bio., Ecosystem Biologist, Skeena Region.

Environmental Scientist
1. Tania Millen, B.Sc., Environmental Scientist, Skeena Region.

ESA
1. Jim Pojar, Ph.D., R.P.Bio., Senior Ecologist (ESA), Skeena Region

Estuarine Ecologist
1. Daniel L. Bottom, M.Sc., Estuarine Ecologist.

Fisheries Biologists
1. David Bustard, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Fish Habitat Biologist, Skeena Region
2. Susan Johnson, Ph.D., Fisheries Biologist.

Fisheries Ecologist
3. Michelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., Fisheries Ecologist.

Fisheries Scientist
1. Gordon F. Hartman, Ph.D., Fisheries Scientist.

Gitanyow Fisheries Authority
1. Mark C. Cleveland, B.Sc., R.P.Bio., Head Biologist, Gitanyow Fisheries Authority
2. Kevin Koch, B.Sc., R.P.Bio. Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Gitanyow Fisheries Authority.

Gitksan Watershed Authorities
1. Alicia Fernando, B.Sc., Biologist, Gitksan Watershed Authorities.

Humboldt State University
1. Walter Duffy, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Humboldt State University.

Idaho State University
1. Colden V. Baxter, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Idaho State University.

Independent Biologist
1. Lynn Westcott, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Independent Biologist, Skeena Region.

Independent Oceanographers
1. Barb Faggetter, Ph.D., R.P.Bio., Independent Oceanographer.

Lake Babine Nation
1. Donna Macintyre, B.Sc., Fisheries Director, Lake Babine Nation.

Laurentian University
1. David Lesbarrères, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Laurentian University.

McGill University
1. Andrew Hendry, Ph.D., Professor, McGill University.
2. Abby Lippman, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, McGill University.

Memorial University of Newfoundland
1. Ian A. Fleming, Ph.D., Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
2. Brett Favaro, Ph.D., Liber Ero conservation fellow, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Microbial Geneticist
1. Richard Bailey, Ph.D., Microbial Geneticist (Retired).

Montana State University
1. Wyatt F. Cross, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Montana State University.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
1. Rachel Malison, Ph.D., Marie Curie Fellow and Research Ecologist, The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

Northwest Community College
1. Michael Nelligan, B.Sc., R.P.Bio., Biologist and College Instructor, Northwest Community College.

Oregon State University
1. Matthew R. Sloat, Ph.D., Director of Science, Wild Salmon Centre, and Adjunct Professor, Oregon State University
2. Mark Novak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Oregon State University.
3. Jon Armstrong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Oregon State University.
4. Taal Levi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Oregon State University.

Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society
1. Alexandra Morton, B.Sc., Biologist, Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society.

Queen’s University
1. Brian Cumming, Ph.D., Professor, Queen’s University.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
1. S. Misty MacDuffee, B.Sc., Conservation Biologist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Research Silviculturist
1. Phil LePage, M.Sc., R.P.F., Research Silviculturist, Skeena Region

Royal British Columbia Museum
1. Claudia R. Copley, M.Sc., Biologist, Royal British Columbia Museum.

Russian Academy of Science
1. Alexander I. Vedenev, Ph.D., Head of Ocean Noise Laboratory, Russian Academy of Science
2. Victor Afanasiev, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences.

Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography
1. Alexander Shubin, M.Sc. Fisheries Biologist, Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography.

SedTrend Analysis Limited
1. Patrick McLaren, Ph.D., P.Geo., President, SedTrend Analysis Limited.

Simon Fraser University, BC
1. Jonathan W. Moore, Ph.D., Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University.
2. Randall M. Peterman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Former Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management, Simon Fraser University.
3. John D. Reynolds, Ph.D., Tom Buell BC Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation, Professor, Simon Fraser University
4. Richard D. Routledge, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University.
5. Evelyn Pinkerton, Ph.D., School of Resource and Environmental Management, Professor, Simon Fraser University.
6. Dana Lepofsky, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University
7. Nicholas Dulvy, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Professor, Simon Fraser University.
8. Ken Lertzman, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University.
9. Isabelle M. Côté, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University.
10. Brendan Connors, Ph.D., Senior Systems Ecologist, ESSA Technologies Ltd., Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University.
11. Lawrence Dill, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University.
12. Patricia Gallaugher, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University.
13. Anne Salomon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University.
14. Arne Mooers, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University.
15. Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University.
16. Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University.

Skeena Fisheries Commission
1. Charmaine Carr-Harris, M.Sc., Biologist, Skeena Fisheries Commission.
2. Allen Gottesfeld, Ph.D., P. Geo., Head Scientist, Skeena Fisheries Commission
3. Janvier Doire, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Biologist, Skeena Fisheries Commission.
4. Kyla Warren, M.Sc. R.P.Bio., Biologist, Skeena Fisheries Commission.
5. Davide Latremouille, M.Sc., Fisheries Habitat Biologist, Skeena Fisheries Commission.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
1. Michael H.H. Price, M.Sc., Salmon Ecologist, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.

Trout Unlimited
1. Jack E. Williams, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Trout Unlimited.
2. Amy Haak, Ph.D., Conservation Biologist, Trout Unlimited.
John McMillan, M.Sc., Steelhead Science Director, Trout Unlimited.

University of Alaska
1. Peter Westley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
2. Anne Beaudreau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
3. Megan V. McPhee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

University of Alberta
1. David.W. Schindler, Ph.D., Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology Emeritus, University of Alberta.
2. Suzanne Bayley, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, University of Alberta.

University of British Columbia
1. John G. Stockner, Ph.D., Emeritus Senior Scientist DFO, West Vancouver Laboratory, Adjuct Professor, University of British Columbia.
2. Kai M.A. Chan, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
3. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics and Integrated Assessment of Global Change, Professor, University of British Columbia
4. Sarah P. Otto, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia.
5. Michael Doebeli, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia.
6. Charles J. Krebs, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia.
7. Amanda Vincent, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia.
8. Michael Healey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia.

University of California (various campuses)
1. Mary E. Power, Ph.D., Professor, University of California, Berkeley
2. Peter B. Moyle, Ph.D., Professor, University of California.
3. Heather Tallis, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Adjunct Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz.
4. James A. Estes, Ph.D., Professor, University of California.
5. Eric P. Palkovacs, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California-Santa Cruz.
6. Justin D. Yeakel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California.
7. John L. Largier, Ph.D., Professor, University of California Davis.

University of Montana
1. Jack A. Stanford, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology, University of Montana.
2. Andrew Whiteley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Montana.
3. F. Richard Hauer, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Center for Integrated Research on the Environment, University of Montana.

University of New Brunswick
1. Richard A. Cunjak, Ph.D., Professor, University of New Brunswick.

University of Northern British Columbia
1. Nikolaus Gantner, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, University of Northern British Columbia.

University of Ontario Institute of Technology
1. Douglas A. Holdway, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Toxicology, Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

University of Ottawa
1. Jeremy Kerr, Ph.D., University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation, Professor, University of Ottawa

University of Toronto
1. Martin Krkosek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Toronto.
Gail McCabe, Ph.D., University of Toronto.

University of Victoria
1. Chris T. Darimont, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria
2. John Volpe, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria.
3. Aerin Jacob, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria.
4. Briony E.H. Penn, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria.
5. Natalie Ban, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria.
6. Travis G. Gerwing, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria.
7. Eric Higgs, Ph.D., Professor, University of Victoria.
8. Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria.
9. James K. Rowe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Victoria.

University of Washington
1. Charles Simenstad, Ph.D., Professor, University of Washington.
2. Daniel Schindler, Ph.D., Harriet Bullitt Endowed Chair in Conservation, Professor, University of Washington.
3. Julian D. Olden, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Washington.
4. P. Sean McDonald, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Washington.
5. Tessa Francis, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Washington.

University of Waterloo
1. Eduardo Martins, Ph.D., Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Waterloo.

University of Windsor
1. Hugh MacIsaac, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Professor, University of Windsor.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
1. M. Jake Vander Zanden, Ph.D., Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Utah State University
1. Barrie Gilbert, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist, Former Professor, Utah State University.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society
1. Aaron C. Hill, M.Sc., Executive Director, Watershed Watch Salmon Society.
2. Stan L. Proboszcz, M.Sc., Science Advisor, Watershed Watch Salmon Society.
3. Craig Orr, Ph.D., Conservation Advisor, Former Executive Director, Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

Western University
1. Ian C. Colquhoun, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Western University.

Wet’suwet’en Nation
1. Walter Joseph, Fisheries Manager, Office of the Wet’suwet’en, Wet’suwet’en Nation.

Wild Fish Conservancy
1. Nick Gayeski, Ph.D., Aquatic Ecologist, Wild Fish Conservancy.
2. Bill McMillan, Fisheries Biologist, Wild Fish Conservancy.

York University
1. Faisal Moola, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University.

Top Photo Credit: 16 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review were professors at Simon Fraser University. Photo shows SFU’s Reflective Pool by Jon the Happy Web Creative via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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