Heiltsuk Nation declares response of industry, federal and provincial governments wholly inadequate
For immediate release
October 17, 2016
The fallout from last week’s sinking of the Kirby Corporation’s Nathan E. Stewart continues to unfold. Only 6,554 gallons of the 59,924 gallons of diesel onboard the tug were able to be pumped from the vessel before it sank in Heiltsuk Territory on the morning of October 13th. Since then, the sunken vessel has been leaking diesel into an area of enormous ecological, economic, and cultural significance to the Heiltsuk Nation.
The response effort has been impacted by slow response time, a lack of boats, appropriate equipment, and personnel, and failed containment efforts by industry and the federal and provincial governments. Spilled diesel has already fully blanketed the most important clam beds in Heiltsuk Territory. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been forced to declare an emergency chemical contaminant closure of shellfish fisheries for 11 sub-‐areas around the spill site. This closure area covers the vast majority of Heiltsuk manila clam harvesting grounds, leaving only two sites unaffected.
Hot tapping of the tug, the first step towards removing the remaining fuel from the sunken vessel, is anticipated to begin today and may take several days to complete. Until then, the fuel spill will continue to worsen.
“The Heiltsuk are heartbroken and angry over this environmental disaster. We don’t know how many years or decades it will be before we are able to harvest in these waters again,” said Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “Yet our community members are heroic. The overwhelming majority of vessels out on the water are Heiltsuk volunteer crews. Our community members are doing their best to assist with response efforts, but have not been receiving adequate direction or training from the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in charge of the clean up.”
“Recent press seems to suggest that containment efforts have been successful. Let me set the record straight: containment has not been successful, and clean-‐up efforts have barely begun,” stated Heiltsuk On-‐Scene Commander William Housty. “The damage has been done, and the best we can work towards is mitigation.”
Heiltsuk have sought to interview the Kirby Corporation’s crew members involved in the incident, but neither Kirby nor Transport Canada has provided access to the crew members. Heiltsuk have requested that Kirby provide its incident information, but none has been provided.
DFO has been noticeably absent from the scene. “Where are the nation-‐to-‐nation relationships we have been promised? It is evident that Indigenous communities bear not only the risks of tanker traffic like this, but apparently also the responsibility for clean-‐up. This is unacceptable,” stated Slett.
The Heiltsuk Nation has launched an investigation of the incident. Please donate here to support thefinancial costs borne by the Heiltsuk Nation for the clean-‐up and inquiry:
New images and footage available for download and use at:
For more information:
Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council 250-‐957-‐7721