For Release: July 21, 2016
Sidney, British Columbia: From commercial and recreational fisheries closures on Chinook salmon to whale viewing regulations and enforcement, Raincoast scientists are calling for meaningful recovery actions for the Southern Resident killer whale population with the launch of a new video. Following the June publication of the federal government’s long awaited Killer Whale Action Plan, conservation biologists assert Southern Residents can only survive with strong protection measures and immediate action.
Population Viability Analysis completed by Raincoast shows that Southern Resident survival requires more Chinook salmon, and less noise and disturbance from vessels. “Low abundance of Chinook (Spring) salmon corresponds to killer whales not getting enough to eat, their survival and birth rates dropping, and mortality increasing. More Chinook for whales will require closing commercial and recreational Chinook fisheries, and allowing these depleted salmon runs to rebuild”, said Misty MacDuffee, a Raincoast biologist.
In addition to their diminishing food supply, vessel noise and disturbance make it hard for killer whales to successfully hunt, feed and communicate. “Until a Cumulative Effects Assessment is undertaken, and a noise budget completed, no expansions in Salish Sea shipping (ergo, increased noise) can be approved”, states MacDuffee. “In addition, Southern Resident killer whales are within 400m of a vessel most of the time during daylight hours from May to September. Reducing boat disturbance requires regulations that increase the approach distance from 100m to 200m, matching US regulations” she concluded. Other disturbance initiatives, like limiting boat numbers, and/or constraining the viewing times and/or the days when boats follow whales, must also be considered. Such regulations also require enforcement.
Raincoast’s Sr. Scientist, Dr. Paul Paquet added, “This unique population of killer whales has struggled for the last 14 years while recovery actions have been delayed. In addition to addressing prey shortages and vessel disturbance, there is a clear need for longer-term action on marine pollutants, commitments to marine protected areas, amendments to the marine mammal regulations, identification of Salish Sea killer whale sanctuaries, and reduction of ship noise.”
Four minute video available here: http://www.raincoast.org/killer-whale-recovery/
Misty MacDuffee, biologist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
Dr. Paul Paquet, Senior Scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
Ross Dixon, Policy and Program Manager, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
New #killerwhale video from @Raincoast urges immediate action for recovery #blackfish – http://www.raincoast.org/killer-whale-recovery/