Ottawa falls short in plan to save orcas

More investigation won't meet immediate needs of iconic species on brink of disappearing

VICTORIA, March 10, 2017 /CNW/ - The federal government's newly released Species at Risk Act action plan to ensure the future of the northern and southern resident orca populations in Canada does not include the strong, immediate actions that would help this species teetering on the edge of survival.

The resident orca population on the southern coast of British Columbia is down to just 78 members. An action plan seriously committed to their survival must contain immediate and measurable actions to address primary threats. This action plan fails to specify detailed timelines and is lacking on three key fronts.

Food availability

  • The plan should: Call for meaningful action and strong measures to secure availability of food for orcas, including site-specific fisheries closures when necessary.
  • Instead, the plan: Commits to investigate strategic fisheries measures and other management actions to implement "where appropriate."

Disturbances and contaminants

  • The plan should: Call for quantifiable targets and actions to reduce physical and acoustic disturbances, and contaminants, for each impact and the sum of those impacts (the cumulative effects).
  • Instead, the plan: Commits to "develop and recommend implementation of best practices, guidelines, regulations, or other measures to minimize or eliminate physical and acoustic disturbance to Resident Killer Whales" and "more investigation of area specific and boating regulations that reduce acoustic impact"

On managing emerging threats

  • The plan should: Call for clear direction that industrial development only be allowed to proceed if the net level of impacts of both existing and new activities on resident killer whale populations is decreasing and not increasing.
  • Instead the plan: Is not clear on how to deal with emerging threats and continued industrial development.

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, says:

"Orcas are on the brink of disappearing from southern British Columbia waters. WWF-Canada had called for meaningful actions that would safeguard the food supply and curtail the accelerating threats from industrial development and other human activities in their critical habitat. The SARA-mandated goal for these orcas is to 'ensure the long-term viability of resident killer whale populations.' This will not be achieved without strong, rigorously implemented protections to prevent all existing and emerging threats from impeding that recovery. This isn't just a moral expectation placed on our government, it's a legal requirement for SARA-listed species. Time is running out."

WWF-Canada has a 50-year history of working on species recovery and protection, including for the southern resident killer whales by:

  • Working with the shipping industry to address the acoustic impacts of underwater noise on these whales.
  • Working with partners to enact marine protection through a network of marine protected areas on the Pacific Coast.

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

SOURCE WWF-Canada

For further information: Sarah MacWhirter, senior manager, strategic communications, smacwhirter@wwfcanada.org, +1 416-347-1894

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www.wwf.ca

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