Image provided by Rachael Merrett/Georgia Strait Alliance.

B.C. killer whales need emergency protection, according to conservation groups

Food availability, excess noise and habitat loss are major threats to southern resident orcas

The Raincoast Foundation, David Suzuki Foundation, WWF Canada and other conservation groups are asking the Canadian government to protect Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW).

Ecojustice, a Canadian environmental law charity, sent a petition on Tuesday to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Dominic LeBlanc, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna. It asks them to issue an emergency order under the Species At Risk Act (SARA) to protect the 76 SRKWs that live in the Salish Sea.The Georgia Strait Alliance and the Natural Resource Defense Council are also involved with the petition.

The SRKWs are a huge boon for local whale-watching operations, and they are one of the most recognizable species on the West Coast. Their numbers were originally decimated by aquariums looking for docile orcas in the 1970s, and their population has not recovered to pre-capture levels, in part due to salmon shortages and ocean pollutants, particularly PCBs which bioaccumulate in their bodies.

Specifically, the group wants the federal government to address three main issues: food availability, excess noise and legal habitat protection.

In an interview, Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director at Raincoast, said the federal government has taken too long to implement protections, and did not protect the characteristics of a healthy habitat, just its boundaries.

“You can’t just draw hatches on a map, you have to actually describe the attributes of physical habitat…in the case of killer whales, that means that it has an adequate abundance of salmon, that the noise does not prevent them from being able to communicate and find food, and that the waters draining into that critical habitat aren’t polluted,” said MacDuffee.

Despite many court actions, MacDuffee said “the federal government has still not issued any directives to reduce the threats to southern resident killer whales since they were listed [as a species-at-risk] in 2002.”

In October 2017, the federal government pledged to keep whale-watching boats farther from whales, doubling the minimum following distance to 200 metres from 100. The regulations are not yet in place, but one industry group has agreed to abide by the distance.

RELATED: New federal regulations to keep boats farther from whales

RELATED: Whale-watching industry endorses new viewing distances

Not only are the salmon numbers low, said MacDuffee, but whales cannot use echolocation to find salmon because of boat noise, which compounds the problem. The conservation groups want designated foraging areas where boats cannot go into, giving orcas a quieter place to hunt. They also want DFO restrictions on Chinook fisheries and a rebuilding plan to increase their population numbers.

“Because most of what we hear from the federal government is a lot of nice words, not a lot of actual action to reduce the threat, this is an initiative we felt we had to take before this year’s fishing and whale watching season,” said MacDuffie.

The fishing season begins in June and whale watching typically begins in May.

The coalition wants a response from the federal government within 30 days.



reporter@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

WATCH: Grand opening of the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch Library

Community members speak to the namesakes of the newest GVPL addition

B.C. Ferries cancels Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen sailings over propulsion problem

11:00 ferry now good to go, but lines anticipated

WATCH: City approves Wharf, Humboldt Street bike lanes

Changing intersections, creating pedestrian plazas and more on the agenda

Meet the 2018 Tour de Rock team

Retired Spectrum principal among team introduced at Spectrum

Teen Victoria brothers receive award for saving family from house fire

Sam and Finn Parker kept cool when their home started to burn and got three people out

Trans Mountain pipeline: How we got here

A look at the Kinder Morgan expansion, decades in the making

VIDEO: Pipeline supporters rally across B.C.

Five simultaneous events organized by month-old Boots and Suits lobby group

VIDEO: B.C. woman praises burn fund after boat explosion in 1978

White Rock woman was 16 years old when she was left with second- and third-degree burns

B.C.’s Ryan Craig, Vegas Golden Knights chase history

Local product behind bench for expansion team’s incredible championship run

CP rail workers give strike notice

Employees could walk out as early as Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT

RCMP investigating after gunshots fired in Courtenay

Comox Valley RCMP officers are investigating after gunshots rang out in Courtenay… Continue reading

WATCH: Grand opening of the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch Library

Community members speak to the namesakes of the newest GVPL addition

Juno winners MonkeyJunk play Saanich’s V Lounge June 2

Two-time Juno-winning Monkey Junk bring their ‘swamp’ R&B sound to Saanich’s V… Continue reading

Vancouver Island wife brings husband back to life with CPR, thanks to 911 dispatcher

‘The dispatcher literally taught me CPR over the phone’

Most Read