Why Southern Resident killer whales, and the Salish Sea, need your help

The Southern Resident killer whales are critically endangered. 1 2

After years of legal, scientific, and public outreach efforts requesting concrete action from federal agencies, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council and World Wildlife Fund-Canada, represented by Ecojustice, filed a lawsuit in September 2018 to compel the government to issue an emergency order to reduce threats to the Southern Residents.3

If Southern Resident killer whales are to live on in the Salish Sea, decisive steps producing substantive reductions in known threats need to be taken now. Proposed cure-alls like more hatchery salmon and killing seals have little scientific basis, even though some might see these as solutions.4

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Why Southern Resident killer whales need your help

As of September 2018, the population of 74 Southern Resident killer whales has had no successful calves since 2015. A 2017 study on their birth rates found nearly 70 per cent of detected pregnancies failed due to nutritional stress associated with lack of prey.  By August 2018 another adult whale had died (L92), a new calf had died, and a young female whale (J50) was the recipient of unprecedented emergency measures prior to her death

Lack of prey is due to both the abundance of Chinook and boat noise and disturbance that interferes with their ability to catch them. Raincoast’s population viability assessment and those conducted by government scientists indicate SRKWs face a 25% to 49% risk of extinction (respectively) in the next 100 years if their threats aren’t reduced.

The good news is they can recover if we reduce vessel disturbance and increase the availability of Chinook salmon.

Our August 2018 recommendations

  1.  Establish protected Southern Resident feeding refuges free from fin fishing and whale watching
  2. Close marine commercial and recreational Chinook fisheries
  3.  End commercial and private whale watching on Southern Resident killer whales
  4. Implement noise reduction targets from commercial vessels traveling in critical habitat
  5.  Designate additional areas identified by DFO as Critical Habitat
  6.  Address the cumulative impact of vessel traffic

The emergency order

After requesting the order in accordance with the Species at Risk Act in January 2018 and getting no response, Ecojustice, representing Raincoast and our partners, filed a lawsuit in September 2018 asking the Federal Court to review the ministers’ failure to recommend an emergency order.

Below are the original set of letters outlining the emergency steps we began seeking in 2018.56

Emergency Order – Summary of the situation (PDF)

Emergency Order -Cover Letter (PDF)

Emergency Order – Full document (PDF)

Emergency order for endangered killer whales

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  1. Photo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Vancouver Aquarium.
  2. See our original petition for an emergency order. Raincoast and partners originally petitioned the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to request that Cabinet issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to protect this endangered population of whales.
  3. An emergency order is a legal tool that allows the government to cut through regulatory red tape and introduce wide-ranging protections for species at risk.
  4. Read more, “Southern Resident killer whales are on the precipice
  5. See our work on an emergency order.
  6. See our work on an emergency closure.

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.