Earlier today, Pacific NorthWest LNG—the controversial $11.4-billion gas export project looking to set up shop in British Columbia's Skeena River estuary—was deemed dead in the water by the Malaysian state-controlled oil and gas giant Petronas.

Salmon and steelhead advocates have long been arguing against the placement of the liquid natural gas export terminal, calling it the worst possible location for a massive industrial development. Pacific NorthWest LNG had planned to build a massive causeway and dredge a deepwater port that would have welcomed 350 tankers a year. Research conducted by lower Skeena tribes and Simon Fraser University showed that developing the area, including Flora Bank and Lelu Island, would have had a detrimental effect on the fishery. That science, however, was subsequently ignored by the Canadian federal government when it greenlighted the project last fall.

According to the Wild Salmon Center, "the eelgrass bed at Flora Bank is perhaps the most important place in the Skeena for juvenile salmon, a crucial stopover used by populations from all over the Skeena on their way out to sea." But Petronas' decision to abort was based more on economic conditions than ecological concerns. Petronas said in a statement that the decision was made following a thorough review of the project as market conditions fluctuate.

“We are disappointed that the extremely challenging environment brought about by the prolonged depressed prices and shifts in the energy industry have led us to this decision,” said Pacific NorthWest LNG chairman Anuar Taib.

Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild, said that regardless of how the decision came about, “this fight has done one good thing—it has united far flung groups in the watershed and across the Pacific around the goal of protecting salmon. Without salmon, we lose the foundation of our ecological health, our local culture and our economy....”

The Skeena Stronghold Partnership, a joint initiative of Wild Salmon Center and the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, is now shifting its attention toward permanent protection of Lelu Island and Flora Bank, while continuing to legally challenge the federal environmental assessment permit given to Petronas and Pacific NorthWest LNG to develop the area. The aim is to have the permit permanently revoked.