The Northern Gateway pipeline concludes at a port in Kitimat, BC, where tanker shipments occur in the Northern Pacific BC. This area is home to multiple channels where a tanker route can be established. The Douglas Channel, approximately 290 kilometers long, connects Kitimat to the Hecate Strait and has guaranteed tanker traffic from all three proposed routes (Hotte & Sumaila, 2012). As the Northern Gateway pipeline is currently under revision, an exact tanker route after exiting the Douglas Channel is unknown. However, the proposed Northern route which exports to Asian markets, goes through the Principe Channel and out the Dixon Entrance (Hinte et al., 2012; National Energy Board, 2013). The proposed Southern 2 route to the United States goes through the Inside Passage connecting to Hecate Strait (Hinte et al., 2012; National Energy Board, 2013; Living Oceans Society, 2011). The proposed Southern 1 route from the Kitimat port navigates through the Douglas Channel, travels through Principe Channel and finally exits through Hecate Strait (Hinte et al., 2012; National Energy Board, 2013). All three proposed routes and corresponding channels are seen in Figure 1. This study does not extend beyond the modelled tanker routes as it assumes that there is leniency in the exact routes in the open ocean.
This study examines the ecologically important areas within this region that can be directly affected by an oil spill on the most hazardous route. As shown in Figure 1, the IUCN classifications of the ecologically important areas are illustrated. An IUCN protected area is classified according to seven categories with specific management objectives (IUCN, 2014). These are ranked in order of importance from top to bottom, with the darker coloured areas under more strict protection guidelines. For example, Ia classification is a Strict Nature Reserve, Ib is a Wilderness Area, II is a National Park, III is a Natural Monument or Feature, IV is a Habitat/Species Management Area, V is a Protected Landscape or Seascape and VI is a Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources (IUCN, 2014). Figure 1 illustrates the BC Ministry of the Environment's established areas of ecological importance, identified by their contribution to the ecological integrity of the region, which are not always located in protected sites but are considered in this project.
Figure 1: Map of study site, including areas of ecological importance and the proposed tanker shipping routes.