I was biking along the dike north of Beach Grove on July 6 when I came across two consultants that had been conducting biological surveys of Boundary Bay for Port Metro Vancouver.
They were returning to their car parked on the dike and when I asked, they indicated they were doing studies connected with the port's Terminal 2 expansion at Roberts Bank. So, why out in Boundary Bay? They said they were obtaining baseline data for birds in the area, including Western sandpipers.
This seemed strange. Asking around I have
uncovered a much more sinister explanation.
What the port's survey work on Boundary Bay may by trying to "prove" is the feeding area and biofilm on Roberts Bank that is so important to the survival of millions of birds, especially Western sandpipers, is not unique and exists elsewhere in the area.
Thus, the port could argue the destruction of shorebird habitat by port expansion on Roberts Bank will not impact the birds because they will have other areas to feed.
This argument, if it were to be made, is self-serving and scientifically spurious. We know that today Roberts Bank is a critical link on the Pacific Flyway and used by millions of shorebirds during their migration to Arctic breeding grounds every year.
Previous studies have shown that if a Western sandpiper stopover site is compromised, which could well be the case if Terminal 2 were to go ahead, then the entire species would suffer a population-level decline.
Birds that could no longer use the site for fueling their long-distance migration would either not make it to the breeding grounds or would not be in good enough condition to breed once they got there. We need to "listen" to what the birds themselves are telling us.
Almost every Western sandpiper in the world uses Roberts Bank because it offers a uniquely rich habitat and far fewer are found in either Boundary Bay or Sturgeon Bank.
This species has already suffered declines and we host one of a very few stopover and feeding sites in its migration chain. Were our "link" to be compromised, the entire species would be put in jeopardy.
It is a risk not worth taking. Port Metro Vancouver must be stopped from any further expansion at Roberts Bank.