Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is tasked with ensuring the port is ready for Canada’s growing trade, but what about the need to protect the environment?
As it turns out, environmental protection is also part of our legislated federal mandate, and tremendous efforts have been put into growing the port sustainably and responsibly.
We conduct project reviews on all applications, which include both a planning review and an environmental assessment procedure. Canada Port Authorities have had permitting authority since 1998 and are federal authorities with environmental decision-making responsibilities under the Canada Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. We must be assured that any project on federal lands is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. We uphold high standards for the review process; each application is carefully considered and rigorously reviewed on its merits, impacts to local communities, and what mitigation measures are necessary. We would never issue a project permit until all technical reviews and any required municipal, First Nations, and community consultation are complete.
We have a suite of innovative environmental programs to manage the impact on land, air and water of port activities. We are the first port authority in Canada to have a dedicated team of environmental specialists who work with our tenants, terminals and others to reduce air emissions, reduce electricity use, improve and create wildlife habitat, minimize noise impacts and much more to ensure the environmental sustainability of the port.
One of these programs is ECHO, which stands for Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program. It is well known that human population growth and marine traffic of all kinds in our region, including shipping traffic, ferries, whale watching vessels and pleasure boats, are impacting the southern resident killer whale population. ECHO was established to better understand the cumulative impacts of all shipping activities on whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia and inform mitigation solutions.
ECHO is a collaborative research and management initiative coordinating the efforts and resources of multiple stakeholders including government agencies, First Nations, marine industry users, non-government organizations and scientific experts. Our long-term goal is to develop solutions that will address some of the key threats to whales, which are underwater noise, ship collisions, water contamination and the availability of prey. The program has received $1.6 million in funding and is continuing to explore opportunities for additional funding from industry and government for research, long-term monitoring and ongoing program maintenance.
Our certified sustainability report provides a regular summary of our overall performance. Although we are well known for our role in supporting trade and the Canadian economy, we are also an industry leader in environmental programs and in community engagement. We are very proud of our approach to sustainability and ongoing work to protect the environment and engage with communities, which are highlighted in the report.
As a port authority, our job is to ensure port operations are sustainable and protect the environment. After all, if we don’t address all the impacts we can control, the ability of the port to meet Canada’s trade objectives is threatened too.