Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I’ll take about 7 minutes of your time. My name is Diane McNally. I’ve worked in public education as a teacher since I was 18, which is some time ago now. I left teaching a year ago and was elected as a school trustee in this school district, District 61 Greater Victoria. I’ve been studying the local orcas at a remove – reading other people’s field research, since my own career in education precluded getting out there for direct research – since 1968.
I’ve lived on this coast for 45 years, having come here from Alberta in 1968. I’ve paddled both the inner and outer coasts of Vancouver Island for 19 years, and sailed on these waters since 1969.
I’m here representing myself and the endangered Southern Resident orcas. The research is in on the intelligence of orcas. They are the mind in the waters. They are matriarchal, socially bonded and family bonded for life.
My visual aids: I brought half of my paddle [I wasn’t allowed to take half a paddle into the hearing room]. It’s been on many padding trips all over the inner and outer coast of this island. On top of the paddle is a representation of the Southern Residents. I’ll say this is Granny, also known as J2. The little orca [plush toy; barely got away with bringing that in] represents Granny’s great-grandkid. There are that many generations out there. Granny is the keeper of the knowledge and history.
The poster – from 1989 – says “Her child deserves an ocean”. If her child does not have an ocean, if Granny’s great-grandchild does not have an ocean, our children and great-grandchildren won’t have one either.
My shirt is from the Non Human Rights project, who will this year bring court action to establish personhood rights for cetaceans. This movement is not going away.
Back to Granny – she is 100 years old, the elder and matriarch of J pod of the Southern Residents, and the oldest known orca in the world. Although I’m not the oldest human in the world, I’m an elder too and I relate to her and her responsibilities.
Her community, J, K and L pods, swims off Victoria, all over the Salish Sea, as far south as California, and notably, as far north as the waters of Haida Gwaii – waters where the tankers out of the Kitimat terminus will be if this project is approved.
There are 89 orcas left in the Southern Resident clan. [January 2015 update, heartrending: 78 Southern Residents left.] I have been privileged to meet some of them while paddling, and to feel the awe many of us feel seeing these perfectly adapted highly intelligent beings whose ancestors have lived for millennial in the ocean without disrupting the balance.
Once there were 139 of them, and in the more distant past possible more. 68 were taken by humans for display and early death in marine circuses. Though live captures in the Pacific Northwest ended in 1976, Granny’s clan still faces extinction.
Every orca baby born has a struggle to survive. We humans are a major threat, via our commercial predation of their food – they eat only fish. An increase in ship traffic will likely impact the salmon. And we and the orcas are already worried about the salmon.
The 89 Southern Resident orcas are the most polluted animals on the planet directly due our increasing production of pollution and contaminants that enter the water. An increase in ship traffic won’t help with that.
The ongoing increase in vessel traffic holds obvious physical dangers and of course has impacts on paddling – and less obvious to us but critically obvious to the orcas, major associated acoustic impacts. Each pod has its own dialect, and we are only beginning to understand the complexity of cetacean communication.
Underwater boat noise is a cacophony. A hydrophone network all over the Salish Sea and up to northern regions is available for all of us to hear the acoustic disruption that orcas now have to deal with. Once communication was possible over long distances. That has been compromised. Adding more tankers will increase this major stressor.
The sonar used by some ships has caused hemorrhaging, and subsequently, death in some orcas.
While paddling off Telegraph Cove in the northern inside waters, I saw large ships where I had hoped for a pristine landscape and waterscape. Along with what I considered to be visual pollution of the area, I thought of what the underwater world sounded like as these monsters passed, and how difficult it must be for the orcas who have to amplify their voices constantly, and of the negative effects on their communication.
Imagine the changes in the acoustic environment that Granny has experienced since 1913.
Imagine the changes in the water quality of her ocean home, as the ocean waters are increasingly acidified due to our inability to recognize what exploiting the last of the planet’s oil reserves has done. This pipeline, if built will have a direct negative effect on the ocean I am connected to. Ocean acidification may be unstoppable now – we may have passed the turning point. In which case the orcas are doomed, and so am I and so are we all. We are not separate from anything. But I pay attention to this: It is never too late to do the right thing. The right thing in this case is to deny permission for this pipeline to be built.
Imagine the depth of despair in the hearts of those who love this coast, those who live on the land at that magic juncture where two worlds intersect – the ocean world of the orcas and our world of land, when we contemplate the inevitable disaster.
I don’t want to paddle out on the BC Coast and know there is no chance I will see an orca, because the threats we presented to them were just too much, and we thought they were expendable.
There are islands on the proposed tanker route. I want to paddle in those islands. I want to see the life on the shores and in the water, and not see oil slicks, tar balls, and death. I don’t want to hear the exhalations of dying orcas as orca families try to survive the inevitable oil spill.
I don’t want to have to explain to my grandkids or your grandkids, that we traded the 89 Southern Resident orcas for commercial profit because we were too short-sighted to see past our addiction to fossil fuels, and so we let this pipeline go ahead.
I’m only one of hundreds of humans who have come before you in this long series of hearings. There are 8 pages of names for Victoria alone. Not on the list are those who would speak to you if they could – the 200 Northern Resident orcas who live in the proposed pipeline terminus area and the 89 endangered Southern Resident orcas, both communities that will be negatively impacted.
As the orcas’ land ally, and a paddler and sailor, I ask you to consider the words of the great ecologist Aldo Leopold: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
This pipeline is wrong.
Thank you for listening.
Thanks to Lori Waters.