Federal Response to BC Killer Whale Crisis Inadequate: CPAWS-BC Statement

Vancouver, BC – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) British Columbia Chapter is demanding the federal government issue an Emergency Protection Order to adequately protect and recover endangered southern resident killer whales.

Yesterday morning, the Ministers for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Transport Canada, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Climate Change Canada, announced their government’s intention to implement new recovery measures for southern resident orcas. However, these measures largely focused on monitoring, industry consultation, and expanding existing regulations, rather than taking the bold action necessary to protect the species.

“This is a completely inadequate response to the scale of the crisis facing BC’s endangered orcas,” said Bruce Passmore, CPAWS-BC Executive Director. “Southern resident killer whales are facing extinction. The federal government must implement an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act. If the federal government can’t issue an order for this species, a species that is hanging by a thread, what species would ever qualify?”

In May, the federal government announced findings under the Species at Risk Act that endangered southern resident killer whales face imminent threats to both survival and recovery, and that the government will “take immediate action to support the stabilization and recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.”

Since then, the southern resident population has fallen to just 74 individuals.

“We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis. We’re losing species at a disastrous rate,” said Passmore. “We expect our governments to take this threat seriously, but yesterday’s announcement indicates that the federal government is unwilling to fulfill their legal obligations to protect endangered species.”

A recent WWF report found that 60 percent of species globally have disappeared since 1970. Southern resident killer whales are not the only BC wildlife in crisis: southern mountain caribou are also endangered, and like orcas, the federal government has so far refused to exercise their legal authority to protect the animals.

CPAWS-BC is currently working to protect endangered orca habitat through a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia.