It has been 4 months since the Marathassa bunker oil spill in English Bay, and for some, the incident may feel like it’s in the rear view mirror. While we are very fortunate that the spill was small in comparison to others – particularly the recent 5 million litre Nexen bitumen emulsion leak in Alberta - for some BC businesses, the spill did have a small yet direct impact, and will not be easily forgotten.

CRED conducted research to find if there were measurable economic impacts to ocean-dependent industries from the Marathassa spill. Fortunately, our research team’s findings show that economic impacts were minimal. The reasons we avoided a more significant economic impact were the small amount of the leak itself, and because it happened just before many seasonal activities were to commence – such as commercial spot prawn fishing and summer recreational activities.

We are lucky that the time of year played a significant factor in minimizing the impact of the spill to ocean-dependent industries. Recreational fishing was affected the most, with industry representatives reporting an estimated $37,400 in lost profit, and approximately 240 hours of lost employment. While losses were minor, they impacted mainly small businesses that would have no path to compensate for their losses.

Our research shows that even such a relatively small spill as compared with others in recent history, has an effect on businesses, employment and profits, and it is these same businesses that would be hit hardest were a larger spill to occur.

And if the Oil Spill were Larger?

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A recent UBC study, conducted for the City of Vancouver, found that in the event of a 16 million litre oil spill (the equivalent of approximately one-fifth the quantity of an average oil tanker) in Burrard Inlet, economic losses could be over a billion dollars. The study determined that market recovery could have long-lasting impacts across many industries.The market recovery for local recreation could take up to 8 months, and ocean-dependent tourism could be impacted for up to 8 years. Are we prepared to assume the risks involved in exchange for the benefits of expanded bitumen traffic through our waters?

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