Nel's New Day

December 11, 2014

Beluga Whales Halt Canada Pipeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline to ship dangerous tar sands oil from Canada across the United States for shipment to other countries has faced protests for years. Therefore TransCanada came up with an alternative in Energy East, a proposed 2,800-mile pipeline that would take the tar sands oil from Alberta to eastern Canada, a longer distance than the proposed Keystone. The project has faced Canadian protesters, First Nations’ opposition, and strict conditions by Ontario and Quebec.

whaleThe population of beluga whales in St. Lawrence River may stop the Energy East project. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determination that these whales are endangered has stopped studies for a key export terminal in Quebec. TransCanada’s proposed terminal would annually bring in up to 175 “super tankers.”

The population of beluga whales, as high as 5,000 over 100 years ago, dropped to 1,200 by the 1950s. Despite banning the practice of beluga whaling, Canada’s high level of pollution in the river and tributaries causes cancer, blood poisoning, pneumonia, hepatitis and abscesses in the whales. The population shrank even more from low genetic diversity caused by the isolated habitat. Toxic algal blooms and noise pollution contributed to increasing the possibility of extinction.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said:

“It’s not my role to speak for the promoter [TransCanada], but it seems very difficult to me to continue to see a petroleum terminal on that site with information like that,” Couillard said in a press conference, referring to the whales. “Now it’s up to the promoter to find alternative sites. It’s not for me to do; it’s for them to do.”

Another species of whales helped block the tar sands oil from being shipped west through British Columbia. The 40-ton humpback whales were almost extinct in the early 20th century after over 200,000 were killed and have come back only through intense conservation efforts. The proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would affect the whales’ feeding grounds and decrease their numbers.

In 2005, Enbridge planned a 730-mile pipeline that would end at the whales’ feeding grounds. Noise pollution from the tripling of tanker traffic would hurt the whales, which Canada has now designated as an endangered species. The area is also home to the second-largest animal on earth, the fin whale, which is listed in Canada as “threatened.” Because proposed location of the terminal is the one of the few places in the world where this type of whale comes close to shore, marine scientists believe that the purpose is for feeding.

Pipelines are toxic for people as well as whales, but the whales may help to save humanity.



1 Comment »

  1. Save the whales! Again.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — December 12, 2014 @ 11:49 PM | Reply

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