WWF-Canada Blog:

Douglas Channel: It’s more than just a map

Over the last few days, there has been a lot of talk in the news and online about various depictions of the proposed oil tanker route through Douglas Channel, in the heart of the Great Bear Sea. But one element mostly missing from the conversation – that can never be captured by any comparison of maps and marine charts – is the sheer richness of life in these waters.

This region is crucial habitat for Humpback whales, Fin whales, and Orcas. Sightings of Fin whales, which are among the most endangered whales in the world, are now increasing each year in the Great Bear Sea. These gentle giants are particularly vulnerable to being struck by ships.

Humpback whales, also at risk, are returning to the Great Bear Sea in remarkable numbers. Researchers estimate that more than 10 per cent of B.C.’s entire recovering population of Humpback whales spends at least part of each year in Caamano Sound, precisely where the Douglas Channel proposed tanker route meets the open ocean. Many of these whales are females with calves, spending time here to feed and rear their young in some of the world’s richest seas.

Male Humpbacks have been observed here practising mating displays in the weeks before they begin their fall migration to southern breeding grounds. The Great Bear Sea is one of the few places in the world outside of these breeding grounds where Humpback whales have been recorded singing their long, complex songs.

These are just a few of the realities swimming out of sight in the online animations and drawings.  And so, as Canadians, we need to imagine a new map.  One that shows not only all the complexity of the islands and reefs in Douglas Channel – but also the whales, salmon, bears, wolves, otters, seabirds, and countless other animals that bring these spaces to life. One that shows communities, families, and a vibrant economy.

Better yet, we need to imagine the real thing – and help to secure its future. If this is your vision for the Great Bear Sea, there is still time to raise your voice. Write to the Joint Review Panel to share your views on the proposed Northern Gateway project. Together we can bring a new map, a richer and fuller one, to life.

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