February 1, 1999
Gordon Wilson
Parliament Buildings

Dear Mr. Wilson:
Re:Fast Ferries Threaten Marine Ecosystems

Lifeforce, a Vancouver based ecology organization, takes the position that the Catamaran Ferries International's (CFI) "fast ferries" will threaten an endangered population of orcas (killer whales) and other marine wildlife. We strongly oppose with Premier Clark's statement the "The Corporation has concluded that the likelihood of such a mishap is minimal...".

The Southern Community of Orca has J Pod, K Pod, and L Pod. In October 1996 these families has 98 members but as of July 1998 there has been a drastic decrease to 89. Since there were two newborns in 1998 there has been a loss of 11 orcas in less than two years. The Southern Community cannot survive any "minimal" loss. Decimation of fish stocks, pollution, climatic changes, aquarium captures and boat collisions are probable causes.

Under a Department of Fisheries and Oceans research permit Lifeforce studies the behavior and travel patterns of orcas in Southern BC. The planned fast ferry routes transect frequently travelled routes of these orcas contrary to Premier Clark's claim that "sightings of these whales in central Georgia Strait is unusual..."

Orcas have been hit by boats. For example, there is a documented report of an orca who was struck by a BC ferry M/V Comax Queens's propeller on December 26 1973. The young orca suffered major injury to her dorsal fin and was kept from drowning by the other orcas for at least 15 days. It is suspected that the orca was A21 who was last seen in 1973. The number of deaths due to boat collisions are undeterminable because any bodies are not recovered.

On the East Coast (Bay of Fundy) a fast ferry company is considering putting wildlife experts on board to protect a population of cetaceans.

An Environment Impact Study must be conducted in order to prevent injuries and deaths to these orcas and other marine wildlife. The study should include:

  1. Assessment of risk to sea birds, sea lions, seal pups and cetaceans(whales and dolphins)
  2. Mandating a training course on wildlife behavior for ferry operators.
  3. Implementing a communication network to alert ferries when wildlife are present. Under water microphones deployed by the military should be utilized (especially on foggy days).
  4. Staffing ferries with wildlife observers.
  5. Providing funding for Lifeforce's emergency Marine Wildlife Rescue and our LIFEWATCH program.

Please advise us if you will meet and discuss this matter with us.

Thank you,


Peter Hamilton

LIFEFORCE (604)669-4673

Box 3117, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6 Box 121, Pt Roberts, WA 98281-0121

LIFEFORCE is a non-profit organization

Page last updated 99-02-02