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Save the whales: A future for the southern residents

Canada’s southern population of salmon-eating killer whales are endangered. Their salmon stocks are in decline and targeted by fisheries. Their ocean is noisy and polluted. They face extinction under status quo conditions. The good news is they can recover if these conditions are reversed.

Legal action to protect resident killer whales

In the fall of 2008 Raincoast and several other conservation groups, filed a lawsuit to protect Canada’s two populations of resident killer whales. Represented by Ecojustice, the case was filed on the basis that Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO) is obligated to protect the critical habitat of threatened and endangered whales. A 16-year timeline detailing government failure and legal action by NGOs can be downloaded here> SRKW recovery planning timeline.

In 2008, lead by Ecojustice, Raincoast and other NGOs began a series of legal actions that ended with a win (supreme court and the court of appeal) for critical habitat protection, at least on paper. The details of the lawsuit are here >Critical habitat lawsuit.PDF

A recovery plan for resident killer whales

In 2014, DFO released a Draft Action Plan for resident killer whales in British Columbia. Raincoast felt the document was weak and lacked action. With Ecojustice, Raincoast and a group of NGOs provided a critique of the draft action plan.  Our primary criticisms were the lack of separate actions plans for endangered (southern) versus threatened (northern) whales, and the lack of actions needed on food supply, physical and acoustic disturbance and pollutant exposure for endangered southern resident killer whales.

In 2016, DFO released a second Draft Action Plan, with little difference from the first.  Again with Ecojustice, we critiqued this plan and submitted our comments on the 2016 proposed Action Plan in August 2016.

More salmon and less disturbance, noise and pollution needed in the Salish Sea.

Southern resident killer whales (SRKW) need better living conditions if they are going to survive.  This starts with an adequate availability of Chinook salmon, their primary food source.  In 2012, the US and Canadian governments (through NOAA and DFO) began a series of workshops examining the effect of salmon fisheries on southern resident killer whales.  Raincoast did not agree with some of the conclusions of their Science Panel Expert Report and submitted our comments to NOAA and DFO. We then conducted our own Population Viability Analysis with leading scientists on this topic. One of the important findings from this analysis shows that more Chinook salmon and less disturbance from vessels can rebuild southern resdient killer whale numbers.

Population Viability Analysis

This expert testimony/report describes a Population Viability Analysis (PVA) conducted by leading scientists studying killer whales, acoustics and endangered populations. A PVA can assess risks to wildlife populations and evaluate the likely effectiveness of recovery options. This PVA assessed the viability of the southern residents in light of their cumulative disturbances and threats, including increased ocean noise resulting from additional vessel traffic and oil spills. It also examined the role of Chinook salmon abundance and contaminants. The Southern Resident population has experienced almost no population growth over the past four decades, and has declined in the last two decades. Our analysis shows that increased traffic and noise conditions will intensify existing threats, accelerating their rate of decline and possibly leading to complete extinction. Conversely, reducing existing vessel noise and increasing Chinook availability increases their likelihood of long term survival.

Download the pdf  RCF- SRKW PVA for NEB -May 2015

Acoustic disturbance from vessel traffic

This expert testimony/report describes the importance of sound to killer whales and the concern for even more noise in their critical habitat. Southern resident killer whales produce and listen to sounds in order to establish and maintain critical life functions: to navigate, find and select mates, maintain their social network, and locate and capture prey (especially Chinook salmon). The existing level of noise has already degraded critical habitat and studies suggest it has reduced the feeding efficiency of these whales.

Download the pdf  RCF – SRKW acoustics-NEB

Action Plan for recovery of SRKWs

In 2014 and 2016, DFO released  Draft Actions Plans [(2014) and (2016)] for resident killer whales in British Columbia. Raincoast felt the document was weak and lacked action. With Ecojustice, Raincoast and a group of NGOs provided a critique of this Action Plan. Our primary criticisms are the lack of separate actions plans for endangered (southern) versus threatened (northern) whales, and the lack of actions needed on food supply, physical and acoustic disturbance and pollutant exposure for endangered southern resident killer whales.

Download the PDF Comments on 2016 Draft Action Plan  for resident killer whales.

Download the PDF Comments on the 2014 Draft Action Plan for resident killer whales.

The role of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident Killer Whales

In 2012, the US (NOAA) and Canadian (DFO) governments produced an Expert Panel Report from a series of workshops examining the effect of salmon fisheries on southern resident killer whales. Raincoast did not agree with some of the conclusions in this report and submitted comments to NOAA and DFO.  We then conducted our own Population Viability Analysis.

Download the pdf  Comments from RCF on Science Panel Report

Press Releases

Immediate action necessary for Southern Resident killer whale survival July 2016

Environmental groups launch court action June 2016

National Energy Board fails killer whales May 2016

Action Plan Fails to protect killer whales April 2014

Stop military training in killer whale habitat March 2012

Court of Appeal upholds decision Feb 2012

Judge orders DFO to pay costs  April 2011

Legal victory for killer whales Dec 2010

Feds sued over failure to protect whales  June 2010

Valuable Summary Documents

10 years of Science and Conservation on Southern Resident Killer Whales produced by NOAA

Sensitivity of resident killer population dynamics to Chinook abundance produced by DFO

Audio Interviews

CBC and CFAX speak with Raincoast’s Misty MacDuffee on the Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. March 2012

 

CFAX’s Murray Langdon speaks with Raincoast’s Misty MacDuffee about the legal victory in Dec 2010.

 

CFAX’s Murray Langdon speaks with Raincoast’s Misty MacDuffee about the legal case for killer whales June 2010

 

CFAX speaks with Raincoast’s Kathy Heise about the filing of the lawsuit in 2008

Latest News: killer whales

Killer Whale in the Pacific

Time is running out for British Columbia’s killer whales

It has been 14 years since Southern Resident killer whales were listed as endangered. Today, less than 85 of these whales remain. Despite their legal obligation, the federal government has failed to take measures to recover these endangered whales…

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Immediate action essential for Southern Resident killer whales

Raincoast releases video to encourage public comments on the killer whale action plan.
Public comment period ends August 14th…

Killer Whale in the Pacific

We can make a difference for killer whales

With your support, we can continue to do our utmost to protect Southern Resident killer whales, including going to court to stop Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and oil tanker project.

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Will hatchery Chinook reared in net pens actually help killer whales? Probably not

There is also no evidence that enhancing late-timed Chinook from Nitinat hatchery will help Southern Resident killer whales…

Killer Whale in the Pacific

Comment: National Energy Board is failing killer whales

Chris Genovali , Misty MacDuffee and Paul Paquet / Times Colonist
Last month, the NEB recommended approval of Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and accompanying increase in oil-tanker traffic…

Killer Whale in the Pacific

Environmental groups launch court challenge over NEB’s Kinder Morgan report

Ecojustice lawyers, representing Living Oceans and Raincoast, have filed for a judicial review of the NEB’s report that recommended the federal Cabinet approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline…

Killer Whale in the Pacific

Big oil vs. big whale: Will pipeline trump iconic orca?

Jason Proctor/CBC News
If you don’t live on the West Coast, perhaps it’s hard to appreciate just how poorly approving an oil pipeline at the expense of an endangered population of killer whales might play out…

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National Energy Board fails killer whales

The NEB’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s TMX jeopardizes the survival of BC’s endangered southern resident killer whales, increasing the probability that they will ultimately go extinct, asserted Raincoast…

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Orca Tour 2015

Join Raincoast and The Whale Trail for “Adventures with Orcas in the North Pacific, from Stubbs to Iceberg”…

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Population Viability Analysis of southern resident killer whales

Expert report on the viability of the southern resident killer whale population in the face of existing and future threats within their critical habitat of the Salish Sea…