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Diesel spill threatens killer whale habitat

Diesel spill that took place off Vancouver Island on Monday threatens the habitat of the killer whales who frequent the area.

At least two pods of orcas were spotted in the area after a barge overturned and dumped a loaded diesel truck near an ecological reserve off northern Vancouver Island.

"There couldn't have a been a worse time and a worse place for this to happen," said Jennifer Lash, executive director of Living Oceans, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve marine biological diversity and create sustainable fisheries. "This is when there's whales all over the place up here and particularly in that exact spot."

Kate Thompson, a spokeswoman with British Columbia's Ministry of the Environment, said the barge was just outside the reserve's boundary when it overturned.

Lash said reports from the scene suggest the barge was about 100 to 200 meters (328 to 656 feet) inside the protected area.

It is not known how much fuel the truck was carrying, but a slick of between two and eight kilometers (one to four miles) was reported.

"If this oil ends up on the beach at low tide, then it will be coming out of the gravel when the tide comes back up," said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, a research scientist who studies the whales' habitat in the area.

The spill follows last month's accident where 1,400 barrels of crude sprayed over homes and into a nearby inlet in a Vancouver suburb when a pipe line burst during roadwork construction.

That spill is still under investigation.