Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Environmental Restoration announcement for BC includes notice of end of off shore oil and gas permits in coastal waters

The Federal Minister of Energy and Natural resources was doing some double duty in Victoria this morning, on hand to announce new protections for coastal estuaries and salmon habitat as part of a program in place for Vancouver Island.

Speaking on behalf of Federal Fisheries Minister Dianne Lebouthillier, Minister Jonathan Wilkinson provided some background on the program that has been endorsed by UNESCO.

Enhancing Estuary Resilience in Coastal BC is a five-year project supported by the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF), which is co-funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Province of British Columbia. Since 2019, DFO has provided $8,432,473 in funding to the Nature Trust of British Columbia. 

Through the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, DFO restoration biologists, engineers, and other experts from the Department’s Habitat Restoration Centre of Expertise have contributed significant support to several major ecological restoration projects, providing technical advice and manual labour to support the Nature Trust of British Columbia and its First Nations partners in work to restore core estuarine processes that support fish, wildlife and indigenous food systems. 

Efforts began even before the Enhancing Estuary Resilience in Coastal BC project was formalized, and have included project planning and design, permitting, berm removals, tidal channel reconnection, re-establishment of saltmarsh vegetation and construction monitoring for the Gwa’dzi (Quatse) River, Xwesam (Salmon) River, Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo) River, Kw’a’luxw (Englishman) River, and Cowichan River estuaries.

As part of today's events in Victoria, the Minister also announced that the last of the Offshore oil and as permits in BC waters had been reliquished, those which were help by American oil and gas giant Chevron.

These represented the last oil and gas permits in the offshore in the Pacific region. With their relinquishment, there are now zero permits left for oil and gas on Canada’s west coast. 

This relinquishment also fulfills a condition for First Nations under the Great Bear Sea Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiative. In December 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $800 million to support up to four Indigenous-led conservation initiatives under the PFP approach, which will bring together government and private funding to support large-scale, long-term and Indigenous-led conservation initiatives. 

Through actions to relinquish offshore oil and gas permits, fulfill the Great Bear Sea PFP initiative, and support ecological restoration projects, Canada is taking a holistic approach to conservation, stewardship, and ecosystem management. With this endorsement from UNESCO, the efforts under the Enhancing Estuary Resilience in Coastal BC project are recognized for their contribution to transforming the way we do ocean science and reaching our shared goal to keep our oceans healthy.

As  Canadian Press notes: Chevron had 23 offshore permits along the coast of British Columbia, turning over their permits as of February 9th. That marked the last of what at one time had been 227 offshore oil and gas permits 

In a follow up statement, the Minister highlighted the importance of the work that has been recognized by the United Nations.

“Although estuaries and coastal wetlands make up less than three per cent of our coastline, they support over 80 per cent of BC’s coastal fish and wildlife. Congratulations to the Nature Trust of British Columbia and its many partners for receiving international recognition for your outstanding work to preserve these ecosystems. The accolades you’ve received from UNESCO – one of the world’s most preeminent organizations for international cooperation – are hard earned and very well deserved.” -- Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources

The full announcement towards both themes can be reviewed here.

More on the Estuary Resilience program can be explored here.

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