BC's Killer Whales

BC is renowned for its tremendous ecological wealth and variety of wildlife. From Vancouver Island marmots, spotted owls, western bluebirds and grizzly bears we have the greatest biodiversity in all of Canada.

Among the most iconic species in BC are the southern resident orcas or killer whales. Found in the international waters between British Columbia and Washington State these 81 whales are under threat from toxins, acoustic disturbances and diminished food supply. The southern residents whales are so polluted with toxic chemicals that they are currently two to four times more contaminated than the highly toxic beluga whales of the St. Lawrence Seaway in central Canada.

To recover the southern resident population we need action that will protect their habitat, maintain their food supply and ensure they are safe from acoustic disturbances and free from toxic contamination.

The best way to do that is to ensure that Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) (marine mammals fall under federal jurisdiction in Canada) is properly applied.  Unfortunately, our federal government is refusing to use the Act to protect Canada's 700 species at risk – including BC’s orcas. This refusal has resulted in environmental groups taking the federal government to court to ensure Canada’s endangered species legislation is properly applied to protect and recover species at risk from coast to coast to coast.

Over the past several years we have won several important legal victories and are inching closer to proper protection for the southern residents – but more work still needs to be done.

Find out more about Toxins and the Northwest Orcas


Google Map of Killer Whale Southern Resident Population
This map describes the occurrence, including range within Canada (in blue) and critical habitat within Canada and US (in red), of the northeast Pacific southern resident population.

View Killer Whale Southern Resident Population in a larger map


Google Map of Killer Whale Northern Resident Population
This map describes the occurrence, including range in Canada (in blue), critical habitat in Canada (in red),  and potential critical habitat in Canada (in orange), of the northeast Pacific northern resident population in Canadian waters.

View Killer Whale Northern Resident Population in a larger map

Recent Developments

5 weeks 6 days ago
For Immediate Release - September 11, 2017
17 weeks 1 day ago
This is a TV news story about the passing of Gwen Barlee, the Wilderness Committee's much loved spokesperson on endangered species.

Take Action

Tell the federal government to strengthen its killer whale Action Plan

Speak up for BC’s killer whales today!

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.

Speak up for the whales today!

Photo: Breaching orca (Don Johnston)

Let's put an end to Kinder Morgan's tar sands pipeline

Call your MP

Despite overwhelming opposition on the West Coast and across this country, the federal government just broke its promises and approved Kinder Morgan’s risky and reckless tar sands pipeline.

This project is a disaster on every level. Endangered orcas, coastal economies, the global climate, Indigenous rights, public health and safety — all at risk from this pipeline. It cannot be allowed to proceed.

Justin Trudeau made a promise to restart the review for the pipeline in the last election campaign. Now he’s turned his back on that. Meanwhile, he’s promised to fight climate change and uphold Indigenous rights. If his government approves Kinder Morgan, he will have thrown those goals to the wind.

We need you to call your Member of Parliament. Tell them they have made a reprehensible choice and this fight is far from over.

Call now >>

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