Recovery progress for endangered whales

An excerpt from Tracking Raincoast into 2022.

In 2018, Raincoast and our conservation partners initiated a lawsuit that challenged the federal government’s lack of action to protect endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Since then, important measures have been initiated to address recovery. Are they enough?

2021 was the third year of collaborative efforts by the federal government, NGOs, and stakeholders to implement threat reduction measures. Outcomes have included changes to management of local fisheries and vessel behaviours at certain places and times.

These efforts have resulted in less whale watching traffic around endangered whales, slower ships as they move through sections of critical habitat, and less competition with recreational fishers for Chinook salmon.

This has given whales more space to forage with less noise, disturbance, and competition. All good things.

However, the population of whales has not significantly changed in the last few years despite new births. One of the outstanding problems remains the harvest of Chinook salmon on migration routes from Southeast Alaska to the Salish Sea, especially in years when salmon abundance is low. These Chinook fisheries are inherently unsustainable. They catch many populations of Chinook migrating to rivers across the coast, often at harvest rates too high for wild Chinook, further depressing their abundance and removing potential food for whales.

Also, these fisheries are conducted on the rearing grounds of immature Chinook salmon that would normally feed for another one to three years, or longer, before returning to spawn. Thus, this harvest can cause the proportion of large, old fish to decline; a condition that is occurring across the coast.

Raincoast continues to champion an ocean for whales that provides healthy abundant salmon and is quiet enough for hunting and feeding.

Our annual report is out now!

Get highlights from the year, our science, flagship projects, staff and volunteers, as well as a peek at what’s in store for the coming year.

Research scientist, Adam Warner conducting genetics research in our genetics lab.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.