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Save the whales: emergency order needed now

The Southern Resident killer whales are critically endangered – they need our help. Raincoast and partners are petitioning 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.1

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Dear Ministers,

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Why your action matters now

As of January 2018, the population of 76 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.

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 percent 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 recommendations

  1.  Implement measures to ensure prey availability and accessibility
    • Establish protected Southern Resident feeding refuges
    • Implement commercial and recreational fishing restrictions that maximise Chinook abundance to the Salish Sea and critical habitat
    • implement rebuilding plans for weak Chinook Conservation Units
  2.  Implement measures to avoid physical and acoustic disturbance from whale watching vessels
    • Prohibit commercial and recreational whale-watching on Southern Resident killer whales in feeding refuges at relevant times of year
    • Establish distance (200m) and speed restrictions for commercial and recreational whale-watching vessels in proximity to SRKWs,
    • Establish a licensing system for commercial whale-watch operators that view Southern Resident killer whales in Canadian waters.
  3.  Implement speed controls for commercial vessels transiting Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait and waters adjacent to the foraging areas
  4.  Quiet commercial vessels servicing local routes in Southern Resident critical habitat
  5.  Designate additional areas identified by DFO as Critical Habitat
  6.  Address the cumulative impact of vessel traffic

Want more details about the emergency order?

Ecojustice, representing Raincoast and our partners, have sent a letter outlining the emergency steps we are seeking in 2018. We have requested a response to our petition by March 30, 2018.

Summary of the situation

Emergency Order Cover Letter

Emergency Order Petition Request

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

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