Could tankers soon be anchoring outside Gabriola Island on a regular basis?
“It will transform Gabriola. A beautiful island, a pristine beach, spectacular coastline, into a commercial lot for freighters,” says Franz Gigl, an island resident and spokesperson for Gabriola AnchorRage.
He and others are outraged over a proposal by the Pacific Pilotage Authority, which oversees freighter movement on B.C.’s coast, that would see five anchorages for freighters placed next to the island.
“It’s 24/7, noise pollution, light pollution. Even if you don’t have any accidents you have oil spills. Here we have beautiful fishing, we have whales, we have all the wildlife on this planet. Are we really going to risk that?” asks Gigl.
On Sunday, a group of 80 boats gathered near the island to protest the proposal, accompanied by a pod of orcas that surfaced near the protest site.
The boats lined up along the perimeter of one of the proposed freighters at one of the anchorage sites.
There are already several places in the Georgia Straight – including at Ladysmith and Cowichan Bay – where freighters anchor, often for many days, before they can gain access to a Metro Vancouver port.
But over the decades both the number of ships, and their lengths, have increased. Gabriola is considered the best place for new anchorages because of their depth.
The proposal, which has yet to go to a public meeting, could be a hard sell with residents, many of whom move to the island for its tranquility.
“The idea of having one of these cape-sized vessels parked in here, being blown off course, dragging their anchors, eroding our seabed and possibly flying into our cliffs. What kind of emergency response system do we have in place to be able to deal with that?” asks Debbie Cook.
She’s among those organizing a protest this Sunday, where boats will form the shape of a cape-size freighter off the northeast coast of the island.
“We feel we have a responsibility,” she says.
“Our province is beautiful B.C. for a reason. Ecologically our footprint is important. This isn’t about us as individuals living in this pristine landscape. It’s about who we are…and what we believe is important.”