Critical situation for Southern Resident killer whales provokes call for urgent action

Calling on Federal Ministers to implement emergency order under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Southern Resident killer whales swim side by side in the Salish Sea, with joint partner logos on the right, including David Suzuki Foundation

Photo by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Vancouver Aquarium.

Only 76 Southern Resident killer whales remain. Their time is running out.

Today marks a significant step in Raincoast’s efforts to protect the Southern Resident killer whales. Represented by Ecojustice and in collaboration with the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Natural Resources Defence Counsel and WWF Canada, we are calling on the Canadian government to take immediate action to protect these whales.

Today’s petition to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna requests that they recommend Cabinet issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to protect this endangered population of whales.

The petition is a response to the urgent need to reduce threats to the Southern Resident killer whales’ immediate and long-term survival, and the lack of government action to date to reduce known threats. Eleven whales have died between 2014 and 2016 including three calves, four reproductive-aged females, two adult males, and two older females. There is alarming evidence that some of these whales died of starvation and that the population as a whole is food stressed.

Please support our petition to protect killer whales.

Take action now

Analysis done by both Raincoast and government scientists on the viability of this population indicate a 25 to 49 percent risk of extinction (respectively) within 100 years, if conditions don’t change.

The order calls for measures that are urgently needed. It outlines specific actions to restrict relevant commercial and recreational fisheries on Chinook salmon, implement feeding refuges in key areas where whale watching and salmon fishing would be restricted, prioritise rebuilding weak Chinook populations, and limit the speeds of ships and vessels that are transiting past feeding refuges, among other recommendations.

The good news is that these whales can recover if we implement these measures designed to reduce vessel disturbance and increase the abundance of, and accessibility to, Chinook salmon. We now need your support to help compel government action.

For the 76 remaining whales.

Misty MacDuffee, biologist and program director.

Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director

Misty is a biologist and the Program Director of Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program. Her most recent publication, with co-authors at the Wild Fish Conservancy and the University of Montana, describes a framework for certifying salmon fisheries based on a much higher bar than is currently in use. She is dedicated to the long term survival of finned, furred, and feathered creatures.