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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 commercial and recreational 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 time line detailing government failure and legal action by NGOs 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 on the draft 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.

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

Southern resident killer whales (SRKW) need improved living conditions if they are going to survive.  This starts with abundant 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 killer whale numbers.

Two killer whales at the surface of the water.

Raincoast submissions on Southern Resident Killer whales

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, DFO released a Draft Action Plan (PDF) 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 the draft action plan.

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.

Download the pdf  Comments from RCF on Science Panel Report

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

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