The final output of this study’s GIS analysis is an oil spill risk map of Northern Pacific BC with the proximity of the hazardous tanker routes to ecologically important areas. This study concludes that the Southern 1 tanker route has the most potential for oil spills with 43% of the cells labeled as extreme risk, totalling a number of 7676 cells that cover an area of 1919km2. Additionally, this analysis identifies that the Northern tanker route has the potential to endanger the greatest number of ecologically important areas in the region with 51 vulnerable, while the Southern 1 tanker route has 46 areas that are vulnerable. Since the study results depict that the Southern 1 route has the most amount of oil spill risk and the Northern route has the greatest amount of vulnerable ecologically important areas, this study concludes that the Southern 2 route consists of the least oil spill risk as well as the least amount of vulnerable areas of ecological importance. If the pipeline proposal is approved, then the Southern 2 route should be used as the preferred route by tankers and more precautions should be taken to ensure safe oil passage along the Northern and Southern 1 routes.
The results of this study can be used to further provide evidence that other Enbridge pipeline terminals for the Northern Gateway pipeline should be explored using the same risk analysis. The results can be compared against the proposed tanker routes from Kitimat to identify other lower risk terminals that are more environmentally conscious and therefore more economically beneficial (National Energy Board, 2013). Additionally, such results from this risk analysis might be particularly important for conservation stakeholders and policy makers who are responsible for safeguarding society’s conservation investments from contamination of substances like oil. This research can be used to identify areas that need protection as there are areas of ecological importance that are currently not protected and vulnerable to the effects of oil spills.
It is suggested that further studies should be conducted at a smaller cell size and with more current and complete data to ensure accuracy. Second, more attention should also be given to the exact environmental impacts on each area of concern as well as the associated socio-economic and cultural impacts. Third, as oil does not travel in a straight line, as is assumed in this study, further studies can be conducted to account for the way oil spills move in water and model this affect: for example, how an oil spill would travel through the Northern Pacific BC waters using currents, wind and other affecting variables. This allows a more detailed analysis on the geographic priority of protecting these areas and oil spill clean up response programs. Fourth, as the vulnerability of the protected areas are based solely upon proximity, further studies should evaluate the relative size and associated environmental implications that are intrinsic to each area of ecological importance as well as the social, cultural and economic impacts of an oil spill risk within this study area. Lastly, further studies can determine the IUCN classifications and the Ministry of the Environment's areas of ecological importance through ranking by ecological priority and therefore identify the relative impact of each area that can be affected by an oil spill.
Overall, this study analyzes an important current issue and identifies serious environmental concerns that could arise from the approval of the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The goal of this study is to educate the public and industry professionals to ultimately protect and conserve an important part of Canada's environment.