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The Coast of British Columbia

BC’s marine ecosystems are dynamic and diverse, with over 6500 known species of invertebrates, 400 species of fish, 161 species of birds, and 29 marine mammals. Although inventories have not been taken in the Queen Charlotte Basin, it is very likely that many of these species reside within this rich region. This enclosed basin that includes Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, is also thought to have the greatest potential for commercial oil and gas extraction. For salmon alone, there are six species and more than 5,000 populations of salmon that spawn in streams adjacent to Queen Charlotte Basin, and many more that rear in or migrate through the Basin as juveniles and returning adults. In total almost all BC salmon pass through the Basin except for a small portion of some southern coho stocks and Stikine and Taku River stocks. Humpback whales, orcas, and grey whales all use this region. Seabirds such as murres and auklets (including 60% of the world’s population of Cassin’s Auklet) spend much of their lives on the water in the Basin, and when molting are particularly susceptible to oil spills, even “minor” ones. Drifter studies have shown that the oceanography of the area would circulate spilled oil throughout Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, washing it onto the beaches, rather than washing it out to sea.