Enbridge -1, Humpbacks – 0

Notes from the Field -A conservation update from Raincoast

Humpbacks bubblenet feeding by Andy Wright

One hundred years ago, British Columbia’s humpback whales had many reasons to fear humans. As the target of whaling ships in pursuit of oil, they were slaughtered by the thousands and hunted to commercial extinction by the middle of the 20th century. Ironically, it was the rise of petroleum that replaced endangered whale products and gave the remaining animals a 40-year reprieve.

Over the last decade, encounters with humpback whales have become increasingly frequent, as they have slowly returned to their historic feeding grounds in BC. Whether witnessing the bubble-net feeding of whales lunging through tons of herring and scattering seabirds, or experiencing the more calm and surreal close encounters initiated on the whale’s terms – these animals have traversed huge biological and ideological territory.

Though harpoons may seem in the distant past, the pursuit of oil once again threatens the humpback whale; this time from the federal Joint Review Panel’s recommendation that the Enbridge Northern Gateway project proceed. But the panel failed to meet legal requirements under the Species at Risk Act when it decided to not consider the final recovery strategy, and other legal obligations for humpback whales, a SARA listed species.

The humpback whale recovery strategy identifies toxic spills, underwater noise and vessel strikes as threats to the iconic species’ survival and recovery. While the panel found that vessel strikes were likely to occur and underwater noise would be routinely present, they still ruled in favour of the project. This is at odds with the federal government’s requirement to legally protect humpbacks and their habitat beginning in April 2014.

The willingness to compromise humpback whales and their habitat are one example of legal violations in the panel’s final report. Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of Raincoast and our intervener partners, have filed a lawsuit to block Cabinet approval of Northern Gateway and force the Joint Review Panel to consider its legal obligation to protect listed species and their habitats.

You can help us use the courts to enforce Canada’s endangered species laws and protect the animals that face an increasingly uncertain future.

How do I take part in the Kinder Morgan process?

Will you be affected by the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion proposal?

To be able to comment on the project, you must apply by Feb. 12th, 2014.

For more information on the project and how to participate, visit our website, or attend one of the following Gulf Island information sessions:

Salt Spring Island
Jan. 27th, 7-9pm
Lions Hall

Galiano Island
Jan 28th, 7-9pm
Galiano Community Hall

Gabriola Island
Jan. 29th, 7-9pm
Gabriola Commons

Thetis Island
Jan. 31st, 7-9pm
Thetis Is. Community Centre

Pender Island
Feb 8th, Time: 7-9pm
Pender Islands Community Hall

These meetings are being hosted by Raincoast, Georgia Strait Alliance and the Gulf Islands Alliance.

Photo Credits: Jared Towers and Andy Wright.

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