Port Alberni, BC – On the morning of Oct. 2, a trawler fishing boat was reported to be sunken in Port Alberni’s Fisherman Wharf, near Tseshaht’s traditional winter village, ƛukʷatkʷuuʔis (or Tlukwatkwuu7is, also known as Wolf Ritual Beach.)
Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) was contracted by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) to respond to the incident, where booms were placed to contain any potential pollutants from the vessel, CCG wrote in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa. The vessel was constantly monitored, and no oil sheen was reported outside of the boom.
By Oct. 19, the vessel was recovered and secured at the harbor authority dock, and on Oct. 21 the boat was removed entirely from the water, CCG wrote. By Nov. 1, the vessel’s deconstruction began.
According to Darrell Ross, Tseshaht’s natural resource manager, the First Nation was notified of the sunken boat, although they have not yet seen a report on pollutants or impacts of the incident.
“Anything around [ƛukʷatkʷuuʔis]… because it’s a high-value winter village, you get concerned about it,” said Ross. “Any type of spill or sinking of boats, it’s a concern.”
But this is not the first of sunken commercial vessels in the Alberni Inlet in recent years.
In July of 2022, a 34-foot gillnetter sank near Hocking Point with 500 liters of diesel onboard, leaking into the surrounding marine environment and at the time during an active salmon run, reads a 2022 Ha-Shilth-Sa article.
In 2019, Canada’s Wrecked, Abandoned, or Hazardous Vessels Act came into royal assent. This prohibits vessel abandonment, while also preventing, mitigating and eliminating the risk of vessels that pose concern.
For Ross, it’s important that vessels coming in through the Alberni Inlet have a proper license and inspections.
“The bigger the boat, the bigger the harm,” said Ross, adding that it’s important that people take preventative measures. “Hopefully… whoever comes in has the ability to be able to make sure that their boats are safe and not susceptible to sinking.”
Ross hopes that in the future the First Nation can be more aware of the larger boats that come into the Alberni Inlet, with harbour inspections done even before they’re moored.
“Hopefully over time, we’ll be involved in more management and safety measures in the future,” he said. “Hopefully during the rainy season people keep better care of their boats.”
Alexandra Mehl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa