The coalition led by Ecojustice successfully argued in Federal Court that the DFO has failed to adequately protect the whales’ habitat, as required by the Species At Risk Act.
Exactly what the ruling will mean on the ground is unclear.
But advocates hope it will strengthen the case for new orca-friendly restrictions on everything from oil tanker traffic and whale watching tours to measures to accelerate sewage treatment upgrades and even reserve a share of salmon runs for the whales.
“The abundance of salmon, chemical pollution and physical and acoustic disturbance have all been identified as key threats to the critical habitat of resident killer whales,” said Misty MacDuffee of Raincoast Conservation.
“The court has confirmed that DFO is legally required to protect these features. Considering the whales in fishing plans is a first step toward this implementation.”
The area defined as critical habitat for southern resident killer whales covers much of the Strait of Georgia off the Lower Mainland, running through the Gulf Islands and up the east coast of Vancouver Island.