Critics say Canada shouldn’t have taken Humpback Whales off the Endangered Species List

VICE Magazine

By David P. Ball Apr 28 2014

The Canadian government’s announcement that it’s knocking humpback whales off its endangered species list has critics pulling their “Save the whales!” signs from the 1980s out of storage.

While the decision to remove the marine giants—known for their amazing group air-bubble fishing and haunting long-distance singing—from the list may sound like positive news, it coincidently comes only months ahead of a final decision on the widely despised Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline—an $8-billion proposal that has already faced a lawsuit alleging possible oil spills and tanker accidents would endanger threatened species.

One of those species named in the suit is the humpback, an animal that faces less protection now that it’s been downgraded from “threatened” to “special concern status.” The move has many whale scientists scratching their heads—even one who sat on Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC), the government-appointed “independent” body whose data on whale populations was used to change the classification.

That particular Washington State expert is research biologist John Calambokidis—whose 30 years of research was cited repeatedly in the Department Fisheries and Oceans own humpback recovery plan just last year. He told me he disagreed with the decision, and was baffled as to why the committee decided to ignore “very strong” evidence of at least two distinct whale sub-groups…

“The decision by the federal government is politically motivated,” said Misty MacDuffee, a marine biologist of 15 years, “but they’re able to hide behind COSEWIC. They made their 2011 decision in the middle of Northern Gateway hearings. We’re halfway [to where populations once were], but we’re going to make a decision now when we know that stressors on the population are going to increase?”…

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