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Southern Resident Killer Whale J50 and her pod

Photo: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, permit #18786, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Protecting orcas and salmon from the Terminal 2 expansion

October 14, 2020

Ecojustice is working to protect orcas and salmon by blocking the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Expansion.

Located at the mouth of British Columbia’s Fraser River, the shipping terminal project proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority poses a threat to endangered killer whales, wild salmon, and other wildlife that rely on the Fraser estuary. Since 2014, Ecojustice has represented the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and Wilderness Committee in the environmental assessment of the RBT2 project

In 2019, Ecojustice represented our clients at a federal review panel hearing on the project. Ecojustice’s clients expressed concern about noise from vessel traffic associated with the expansion, marine pollution, threats to wild salmon and their rearing habitat, and threats to the other 119 species that call the Salish Sea home.

As a result, in 2020 the panel concluded that the expansion would have “numerous” adverse effects on the environment, including “significant adverse effects on Chinook salmon” and “significant adverse and cumulative effects on Southern Resident Killer Whales.” However despite scientific evidence by the government’s own panel that highlighted the permanent and irreversible impact of the expansion on the already threatened marine species, in April 2023, the Cabinet decided to green-light the RBT2  project. 

Undeterred, in May 2023 Ecojustice, on behalf of our clients, filed an application challenging this decision to approve the RBT2 Project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.  The conservation groups argue that the approval is unlawful under the Species at Risk Act .

We remain committed to protecting the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and Chinook salmon from the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion.  

If built, the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) Project would cause significant harm to the environment and threaten precarious salmon populations and endangered killer whales.

The expansion threatens to disrupt Chinook salmon migration patterns and force young salmon into the open ocean before they are strong enough to survive there. This, in turn, could harm predators up the food chain. Any decline in Chinook jeopardizes the future of Southern Resident Killer Whales, which rely almost exclusively on Chinook for prey.

According to the federal panel’s final report, other impacts from the project would include greater underwater noise, which interferes with the orcas’ ability to hunt and communicate, and loss of critical Southern Resident habitat.

What would a win mean?

As of May 2023 the Cabinet decided to green-light the RBT2 Project despite the scientific evidence provided by their own review panel on the ‘significant’ and ‘irreversible’ impacts the project will have on an already threatened species.

Ecojustice and our clients continue to fight this decision in federal court, arguing that the project is ‘unlawful’ and ‘unjustified’ under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) that legally obliges the government to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales and the Chinook Salmon they depend on for survival.

If Ecojustice and its clients are successful, the Federal Court will recognize the significance of RBT2’s adverse impacts and will not approve the project.

May 2023
An orca jumps out of the blue water. Near it another orca swims, its dorsal fin rises out of the water.
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Southern Resident chasing Chinook, Oregon State University via Flickr
press release

Ecojustice: Minister should not approve terminal expansion that will have ‘adverse’ impacts on endangered killer whales

VANCOUVER – Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change should not approve a proposed terminal expansion at the mouth of British Columbia’s Fraser River, Ecojustice says, following a panel report that found the project would have significant adverse impacts on the environment.
Aug 2019
An orca breaches the water and catches a fish in its mouth.

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Earlier this week, we received devastating news about the Southern Resident killer whales.
May 2019
press release

Terminal 2 expansion threatens orcas, salmon and climate action

VANCOUVER, May 22 2019 — Tomorrow, conservation groups will present three main concerns with the proposed Terminal 2 expansion at Roberts Bank in Delta to the federal review panel.