(Coalition of Users to Re-establish Equity)
B.C. Ferry Users File Fast-Ferry Complaint with
Federal Ministers and Request Impact Assessment
November 17, 1998 - Ferry CURE, a coalition of ferry users based on Bowen Island, has filed a formal complaint with federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister David Anderson about the damage caused during last month’s sea trials of B.C. Ferries’ new fast-ferry catamaran and asked his department to assess the vessel’s potential impact on both small-craft marine safety and the environment.
Ferry CURE (Coalition of Users to Re-establish Equity) - which was involved in the successful fight to roll back ferry fares late last year - has also formally requested federal Transport Minister David Collenette and the B.C. Ferry Corporation’s directors, officers and employees to defer and/or modify implementation of the impending fast-ferry service until such an investigation is made.
The actions follow reports of damage to the foreshore, boats and docks on the North Shore - “like instant tsunami”, one witness was quoted in the media - when the vessel guilt by the corporation’s subsidiary, Catamaran Ferries International, was tested during high-speed trials on October.
In letters to the two key federal ministers, the ferry corporation and the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union, Ferry CURE Director Elbert Paul says that based on media reports and discussions with independent naval engineers and scientists, “it appears that operating the fast ferry on the Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo run has resulted or will result in a risk to pleasure-craft safety” as well as “the disruption or destruction of fish habitat by negatively impacting estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems in the waters in the Strait of Georgia. Also, there is now significant risk of erosion to beachfront properties and damage to docks, wharves, marine craft and other private property.”
The ferry-users’ coalition is requesting Fisheries and Oceans to investigate the adequacy of the fast-ferry environmental study conducted by B.C. ferries. The department is mandated to make such an investigation under the 1997 Oceans Act, which outlines the principles of sustainable development of the sea, integrated management of ocean activities, and the importance of a precautionary approach - which is pivotal to the current situation.
Paul points out that Section 35(1) of the federal Fisheries Act states that “no person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.” The penalties for such offenses are fines of up to $1 million or three years in prison and can be levied against any officer, director or agent of a corporation involved in the offenses.
“All over the world, waves from high-speed fast ferries are becoming an environmental problem of growing concern,” the letters state. “It would be a profound tragedy if during this, the UN Year of the Ocean, that (as Canadian deep-sea explorer Dr. Joseph MacInnis says) “we forget that our great waters are a defining symbol of our country.”
For further information, please contact:
Donald R. Maclean
Phone and Fax: (604) 947-2781
Page last updated 99-02-02