Killer Whales win habitat protection

Good news to report for Killer Whales in BC this week: the federal government has issued an order that provides legal protection for this endangered species’ habitat.

This order comes after a lawsuit was launched by environmental groups in October when the feds decided to not protect killer whale critical habitat after they had formally identified it as part of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) process.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans had claimed that existing legislation and guidelines were enough to protect the whales’ habitat, but environmentalists argued that these provisions were weak, insufficient and clearly not effective given the perilous status of the whales. This order will make it illegal to destroy the critical habitat of the Northeast Pacific Northern and Southern Resident populations of Killer Whales. Other articles on this victory are here and here.

This order is big news for SARA implementation too. The federal government has been very slow to formally identify critical habitat for species at risk, and its track record of actually protecting critical habitat once identified has been downright abysmal. This order is a step in the right direction towards putting into place concrete measures under SARA that will ensure that the habitat needed for the survival and recovery of species at risk is safeguarded.
This news follows close on the heels of another positive development for Killer Whales this week – two new baby whales have been spotted off the coast of Vancouver Island, bringing the total population of the Southern Resident population to 85. Way to go, whales!