For over 15 years we’ve been fighting to protect species at risk like BC’s northern and southern resident killer whales.
During the late 1990s, we campaigned with other environmental organizations to help create a federal endangered species law, which culminated in the Species At Risk Act (SARA) in 2003.
While this was good news, the federal government dragged its heels when it came to implementing SARA, especially identifying and protecting habitat and releasing species at risk recovery strategies. This was particularly true for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which for years failed to identify critical habitat or properly address the risks to these killer whale populations.
After exhausting other avenues for change, we finally went to court with the Georgia Strait Alliance, David Suzuki Foundation and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, represented by Ecojustice. In 2010 we won a significant legal victory when the courts ruled that DFO had failed to legally protect the resident killer whales’ critical habitat “including their food supply and quality of their marine environment.”
Killer whales are among Canada’s most at risk and most beloved animals. But today there are just 83 southern resident killer whales and approximately 275-280 northern resident killer whales in the wild. These whales were on the original SARA listing in 2003, but 13 years and several successful lawsuits later, they’re still waiting for meaningful conservation action.
Today, that can change. And with your help it will!
The federal government’s latest draft Action Plan was released this June and we have until August 14, 2016 to give feedback. Action Plans are very important for the recovery of species at risk because they identify timelines for recovery, what actions are need to recover a species and how the actions are to be coordinated and implemented.
BC’s resident killer whales need a real plan that addresses their immediate threats -- loss of salmon, noise pollution and contaminated waters -- as well as their long term health and safety. They need a plan with clear enforcement roles and mechanisms. This draft has made a good start, as it considers fisheries’ closures, uses science to reduce toxic pollution exposure, and plans for marine protected areas. But much of the language is vague and unenforceable and it won’t help these whales in a meaningful way.
You can help make the Action Plan better by telling SARA and DFO to make it specific, time-bound and actionable.
Photo: Breaching orca (Don Johnston)