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Chinook Salmon, American Bumble Bee and Black Ash Populations at risk of extinction say scientists
Photo by Meryl Raddatz.
News

Chinook Salmon, American Bumble Bee and Black Ash Populations at risk of extinction say scientists

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is recommending changes to the status of species at risk following its semi-annual Wildlife Species Assessment meeting in Ottawa last week. “Nature Canada is very concerned that the Fraser River populations of Chinook Salmon, the American Bumble Bee, and Black Ash, among others, have been added to the growing numbers of species at risk in Canada” said Stephen Hazell, director of policy at Nature Canada.  “Nature Canada urges the government of Canada to proceed with the legal listings of species recommended by COSEWIC so that recovery strategies and action plans can begin as soon as possible.” The Black Ash, a tree that is common to swampy woodlands in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador has been designated as Threatened. The Black Ash is susceptible to a number of pests (especially the invasive Emerald Ash Borer) and diseases. Due to its close proximity to rapidly expanding human populations, Black Ash is also threated by human development. Moving out to the West Coast of the country, the committee found 13 populations of Chinook salmon to be declining, with eight assessed as Endangered, four as Threatened and one as Special Concern. Only the large population that lives in the Thompson River is stable. The interconnectivity of ecosystems, and importance of all wildlife species is especially evident with this designation in that the Chinook Salmon are a critical food source for the Endangered Southern Resident Orca, that Nature Canada believes is in need of urgent emergency protection. American Bumble Bees are now listed as Special Concern in Canada. Threats to the American Bumble bee include habitat loss, pollution, mites and pesticide use. Since June, Nature Canada has been campaigning to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in Canada and are calling for the Federal Government to take swift and urgent action. This pesticide is currently used on farms, despite causing millions of pollinators, aquatic insects and other beneficial species to disappear in staggering numbers around the world. “COSEWIC’s science-based recommendations for designating wildlife species at risk under the Species At Risk Act is critical to their survival  and to protecting biodiversity and ecosystem protection”  said Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada’s naturalist director. The Polar Bear, with populations in Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern parts of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, was another species whose status was being considered by COSEWIC, and whose designation as Special Concern in 2017 did not change in this year’s assessment.


It isn’t all bad news however – there are actions that you can take today to help recover these species at risk , and many others, from coast to coast to coast:
  • Save the Turtles! Read up on what to do when you see a turtle crossing the road before heading to cottage country this Spring and Summer;
  • Say no to neonics and yes to birds and bees! Support the work we’re doing, along with 13 other environmental organizations, to ban the use of neonics in Canada, which is a deadly pesticide causing harm to birds and bees;
  • Use your voice for Orcas! Sign our petition and raise your voice to restrict Chinook salmon fisheries and protect the Endangered Southern Resident Orcas;
  • Become an advocate for nature! Join the nature nation to stay up-to-date with the important work we’re doing to protect the incredible wildlife species and landscapes from coast, to coast, to coast.
COSEWIC's next scheduled wildlife species assessment meeting will be held in April 2019 in St. John's, Newfoundlandand Labrador.

Why Canada needs to say no to Oil and Gas Drilling in Marine Protected Areas
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Why Canada needs to say no to Oil and Gas Drilling in Marine Protected Areas

The federal government is committed to protecting at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. These measures of protection are crucial to conserve the important habitats of species at risk in our lands and waters. Protection of Canada's natural places is a vital component of our culture, heritage, economy and our future, as well as of global importance in terms of biodiversity conservation and mitigating climate change. Since 2015, Canada has made significant progress on marine protected areas and now protects nearly 8% of its oceans. Despite those advances, the federal government is still considering allowing oil, gas and mining in some marine protected areas. Oil and gas drilling in marine protection areas?  Many, if not most, Canadians would ask: what’s up with that? Surely creating a ‘marine protected area’ means that oil, gas and mining projects are no longer permitted. Surely these important habitats cannot risk environmental catastrophes similar to the oil spill we recently saw off the coast of Newfoundland that released 250,000 litres of crude oil into the ocean.


The public controversy as to whether to allow of oil and gas drilling in protected areas led to the establishment of an expert panel on standards for marine protected areas. The good news is that the panel recommended strengthening ocean protections. The bad news? The government is under pressure from oil and gas interests to keep these protections weak.  Industry wants to see oil and gas drilling still allowed in some types of marine protected areas. Fortunately for all nature lovers, there is something that can be done. It is not too late to strengthen the protection of important marine habitats and to ensure that marine wildlife species like the Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle and beloved Atlantic Puffin continue to thrive.

Share our petition with your family and friends to raise awareness around the protection of marine areas today! If we raise our voices for nature in Canada today, we will be able to protect it for generations to come.


Stephen spoke to reporter James Wilt from The Narwhal, stating that “I reject the idea that greenhouse gas emissions are not a matter of federal interest and authority,” and that “Given that climate change could destroy human civilization, maybe it might be a good idea to include high-carbon projects for assessment under the new legislation,” Read this story here.

Wildlife Wednesday – The Burrowing Owl, what a hoot!
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Wildlife Wednesday – The Burrowing Owl, what a hoot!

The Burrowing Owl is unlike most other owls. It lives in burrows underground, is active during the day, the female is smaller than the male, and its favourite foods are insects. This owl is drably coloured, with a mix of brown, white and beige spotting. To protect the female and the young, the male typically remains outside of the burrow to keep watch, standing upright on his long thin legs, so that he can see further. The Burrowing Owl can stand a whopping, 23-28cm tall! When threatened, the Burrowing Owl makes a hissing noise that sounds like a rattlesnake! Since the Burrowing Owl need sparsely vegetated grasslands with burrows excavated by badgers, ground squirrels or other mammals, finding a suitable habitat is becom difficult. However, the Burrowing Owl has come to find its ideal habitat in the regions of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. More specifically, the area of Govenlock. Govenlock is a region in southwest Saskatchewan where many species are found, like the Burrowing Owl. Govenlock’s luscious grasslands make for the ideal habitat for this owl. This owl is now Endangered, with many reasons due to population decline because of habitat degradation. [caption id="attachment_38583" align="alignleft" width="227"] © C. Wallis[/caption] Since the Burrowing Owl's rely on their burrows already excavated, and the mammals that excavate to create the burrows, are declining in population, these owls are unable to find suitable nesting sites. These mammals (badgers, ground squirrels) are regarded as pests by farmers and are being killed. Ground squirrels and foxes are also often killed with poison when they interfere with humans; and since the Burrowing owl feeds on the carcasses of the small animals,  they too are poisoned.  The Burrowing Owl now has a fighting chance at survival! With less use of pesticides, the Burrowing Owl has the potential to be saved. Now, we can focus on helping the species reproduce and flourish, so that it is present for many generations to come. If you share this information with your friends and family, they will learn about the Burrowing Owl and they can help the owl too! To help, if you live near or on farmland, protect the mammals that create the nesting sites for the Burrowing Owls! Also, if you live in rural areas, be careful when driving as foxes and squirrels tend to cross the street at any moment!

Swimming with Species – The Porbeagle Shark!
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Swimming with Species – The Porbeagle Shark!

Ever wonder how life is in the deep blue sea? What lives among coral reefs, undersea mountains and volcanos, grooves and caves? What the differences are between freshwater and saltwater biodiversity? What’s the biggest species? The fiercest? The weirdest? Well, we wondered too; and thus, let’s go Swimming with Species to find out all about animals that lurk in the waters around Canada!


Today’s species is the Porbeagle Shark!

The Porbeagle shark is found in open seas in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. In the North Atlantic, if you are anywhere from Newfoundland to New Jersey to Greenland and Russia, you might have the opportunity to witness one. But do not fear, the Porbeagle shark is known not to feed on other mammals, and is actually recognized for its playful behaviour!  The main diet of the Porbeagle shark consists of herring, lancetfish and mackerel. However, they do also dine on cod, redfish, haddock, squid and shellfish. Overall, their diet consists of pelagic (open sea) creatures. If you think you see a Porbeagle shark, look for its distinctive features. It has dark bluish-grey to bluish-black colouring on its back with white colour underneath. On its tail, it has a secondary keel underneath its longer primary keel. This shark has a stout head, with a pointed snout and large black eyes. Its teeth are small and smooth-edged narrow, with lateral cusps at the base of each tooth. But its most recognizable feature is the white spot at the base of the first dorsal fin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHmWe0Qj4w8 The Porbeagle shark joins the other species of sharks found in Canadian waters including the white shark, salmon shark, and shortfin mako. Different from other shark species', the Porbeagle shark has to keep moving in order to breathe. It also has a heat regulating mechanism that keeps its body temperature 3 to 8°C above the surrounding water temperature. This shark is limited to where it can go, and so, it spends most of its time in waters between 8 and 13°C. When not in the cooler waters, the mature female Porbeagle sharks migrate south to the seas between Cuba and Bermuda. It has also been seen near Brazil and Chile. It is in the warmer waters that the females pup, which occurs in late winter or early spring. Yet, their mating occurs in southern Newfoundland, in September to November. The Porbeagle shark prefers to remain in deep waters between 1,350 to 4,400 feet, but they often shift from shallow to deep, even being sighted in waters as shallow as 3.3 feet! The female can produce between 1-5 pups, but generally it is only four that are between 60-75cm long at birth. The female Porbeagles reach sexual maturity at a size of 217 cm long (which they reach around 13 years of age), while males mature at 174 cm (8 years old). The adults can reach a size of over 3 meters (10-12 feet)! Usually, it is only between 1.5-1.8 m and 135 kg (298 lbs). They have a life expectancy of 30-40 years, with most Porbeagle sharks indicating growth rings in the vertebrae that indicate at least 26 years of age before death. The biggest threat that the shark is facing is overfishing, both by fishing on purpose and by accident. This makes the Porbeagle very likely to be caught as bycatch. Luckily, directed fishing has been suspended, which does provide some hope for this helpless shark, but they still continue to be caught as bycatch. When caught, fisheries have strict rules that they must be returned to the water in a way that is least harmful. Since the fishing of the Porbeagle shark was suspended in 2013, no licenses that have been issued since that year. The population has not been estimated since 2009, but it was estimated between 197,000 to 207,000 individuals, including approximately 10,000 to 14,000 spawning females. The Porbeagles are very vulnerable to over-exploitation because they have a late age of maturity, and a small number of pups (average of 4 per litter). Sadly, the mortality rate for the Porbeagle shark is estimated at 100 tons per year (that is approximately 600-700 Porbeagle sharks per year). In addition to threats posed by fisheries, there are other human related threats. These threats include noise associated with offshore petroleum exploratory seismic surveys, and marine pollution. This species is endangered, but there are things you can do to help!
  • Learn about sharks to better understand them!
  • Reduce purchasing shark products, anything from meat to oils (found in any beauty items and health nutrition)
  • reduce your seafood consumption, this would also assist in stopping the accidental bycatch as seafood would be in less demand, so less fishing would occur.
  • In order to reduce pollution, begin your ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ regime! You have the potential to make a difference.
  • Lastly, share this with your friends and family so that can learn about this 'playful shark' that needs our help!

Wildlife Wednesday – Collared Pika-Boo!
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Wildlife Wednesday – Collared Pika-Boo!

Called ‘rock rabbit’, ‘whistling hare’ and ‘coonies’ by naturalists, this collared pika greatly resembles a small rabbit, but one with very short ears and small limbs. The Collared Pika is small (15-20cm in length) with a chubby body and rounded ears. It has grey fur, a bobbed tail and long whiskers. They get their common name, Collared Pika, from the distinctive patch on the nape of their neck, which looks like a collar! The Collared Pika weights approximately 160g, which is less than 1 pound! Pikas do not hibernate, so they do not store much body fat. To maintain their year-round active lifestyle they establish hidden food stocks in their territories. The Collared Pika is found in Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon. They forage throughout the summer, collecting many different types of vegetation in their hidden stock. Once thought to be strict vegetarians, researchers found that their hidden stockpiles contains small songbirds that did not survive migration. After much analysis, it was found that they eat them as well. Collared Pikas are solitary animals, prefering to remain around 20-75m away from any neighbours. The Collared Pikas have a distinct sound (‘meep’) that marks their territory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-5nIpqeiPo For reproduction, Collared Pika’s locate their nearest neighbour to mate. They are considered monogamous, only because the men cannot cover and control enough ground to find more than one woman to mate with. Breeding occurs in May and early June. The females can have up to 2 litters per year, ranging between 2 to 6 young. The gestation period lasts 3 to 4 weeks (30 days) and the pikas reach adult size in 40 to 50 days. Both females and males are sexually mature by 1 year of age. The average life span is 6 years old. The Collared Pika is located in remote areas, and so, humans do not pose much of a threat to the Pikas. Their main threat is climate change. This adorable species has already been extirpated (no longer found in the wild in some areas) over the last few decades due to changes in habitat conditions.  The reason that climate change is affecting them most is because the high elevations that they are mostly found is witnessing rapid shifts in habitat and temperature, faster than anywhere else in Canada. The change in temperature is dangerous to the Pikas whose thermoregulatory ability have not adapted to the new temperature.  Also, the change in freeze-thaw patterns affect their food storage, which is their reason for survival over the winter. What needs to be done, is to slow down the effects of climate change. This involves your best efforts, and the efforts of all your friends and family. By learning about climate change and how it is affecting this species, and by sharing this with your peers, you can help save the Collared Pika. The Collared Pika is listed as a Special Concern, which means that it requires close watch as it can become threatened or endangered at any point. The Collared Pika still has the potential to survive the threats that climate change is posing on them! But it is up to you to share this with everyone!

Herping Around with the Blanding’s Turtle
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Herping Around with the Blanding’s Turtle

Ever wonder about unusual creatures? What’s it like to be cold-blooded? Or to breathe with your skin? Ever think about what it’s like to have scaly skin and no limbs? What about hoping versus walking? Or having a shell on your back? What’s the smartest species? The cutest? The strangest? Well, we wondered too; and thus, let’s go Herping Around in Canada and learn about snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, and turtles!

Today’s species is the Blanding’s Turtle!


[caption id="attachment_38567" align="alignleft" width="317"] © Joe Crowley[/caption] Is that an army helmet laying on the ground? NO! It’s a Blanding’s Turtle! The shell of a Blanding’s Turtle is medium-sized, dome-like and resembles that of an army helmet; which is unlike most other turtles that have a wide, flatter shell. It is easily identified by its bright yellow throat, chin and shell underbelly. Its shell has black to brown yellow flakes and streaks and can reach up to 27 cm long. Apart from its bright yellow throat, its head and limbs are black-grey. Unlike other Ontario turtles, the Blanding’s Turtle can completely close their shell after pulling in their head and feet, because the bottom of the shell is hinged. This is very useful when the Blanding's Turtle is in danger! The Blanding’s turtle lives in the Great Lakes Basin, with a few other populations in the United States and elsewhere in Canada. It is found in shallow water, usually in large wetlands and shallow lakes with lots of plants. If you see one a few hundred meters away from the water, do not panic, as they often venture to find a mate or nesting site! When in hibernation, they are in the mud at the bottom of permanent water bodies, from the Late October to end of April. What’s interesting, is that the female species do not mature until at least the age of 14, with individuals living to be over 75 years old! That’s old for something so small! The female will lay up to 22 eggs in late May or early June after excavating a nest in a sunny area with good drainage. Hatchlings three to four centimeters in length, emerge in the fall and the incubation temperature of the eggs determines the gender of the offspring! Blanding’s Turtles are omnivorous (feed on plants and animals), specifically on crayfish, insects, fish, frogs and a variety of plant material. Different from other aquatic turtles who feed exclusively in the water, Blanding’s Turtles feed both in the water and on land. Blanding’s Turtles are threatened primarily due to the destruction of wetlands, their home. Not only this, but shoreline development can destroy nesting areas and disturb the land beside the water. Since Blanding’s Turtles can wander from the water a few hundred meters, that creates a new threat if the turtle ends up on the road. The more that they wander on the road, the more likely they are to be crushed. This is especially harmful to the females who need to return to the nest. Shockingly, this is one of the species that people remove from the wild to use as food or as pets! But don't worry, you can help! If you see a Blanding’s Turtle, report the sighting! This will hopefully help the city create signage for drivers or pedestrians, so that everyone can be more careful around that area! Also, you can volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park in surveys focused on species at risk. And if you live on property near the habitat where Blanding’s Turtles can be found, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of the species and its habitat. As well, if you are interested in purchasing a turtle, never buy a native species of turtle, or any that have been caught in the wild. If you see a turtle for sale that came from the wild, REPORT immediately. If you are reporting illegal activity regarding plant or wildlife, call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667). Lastly, share this so that your friends and family can learn about the danger that the Blanding’s Turtle is in, and how they too can help!

Feds reject Emergency Order for Orcas
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Feds reject Emergency Order for Orcas

Nature Canada is disappointed that the federal government has declined to issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act that nature groups are saying is needed to protect the endangered Southern Resident Orcas of  British Columbia’s Salish Sea. A November 1, 2018 order-in-council indicates that the government has already taken measures to assist recovery of these Orcas (e.g., monitoring ship noise, imposing a 200-metre buffer to keep marine vessels away from Orcas). This is certainly true; the problem is that they are not in themselves adequate to save these whales. Nature Canada continues to believe that an emergency order is the most efficient way to coordinate and direct the work of federal departments such as Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, Parks Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada that are working on saving the Orcas from extirpation.


Some key actions that must be taken to protect critical habitat in the Salish Sea include:

  • Restricting Chinook salmon fisheries in areas where these Orcas feed, and closing Chinook fishing on the Fraser River;
  • Enforcing the 200-meter buffer between marine vessels and Orcas and implementing better rules for whale-watching boats
  • Imposing a 10 knot speed limit on marine vessels and slowing down BC Ferries;
  • Reducing noise and disturbance for commercial vessels travelling in or near Orca foraging areas; and
  • Establishing the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area.

Lets keep up the pressure: sign our petition and save the Southern Resident Orcas.


For more details on the work that Nature Canada is doing, please consult the following:

Edéhzhíe Indigenous Protected Area Established
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Edéhzhíe Indigenous Protected Area Established

Congratulations to the Deh Cho First Nation and federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on their declaration of Edéhzhíe, a 14,250-square-kilometre plateau as an Indigenous Protected Area on October 11. Located west of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Edéhzhíe covers an area twice the size of Banff National Park with boreal forests and wetlands, and wildlife that includes caribou, moose, wolves and myriad songbirds. It also contains a portion of Mills Lake, which is a key habitat for various migratory birds, including 12 per cent of Canada's eastern population of Tundra swans. Edéhzhíe has been a place of cultural and spiritual significance for Indigenous people for generations, and likely for millennia. Natural resource development will not be allowed in the Indigenous Protected Area, but there will likely be economic opportunities in the form of ecotourism and guardian jobs. Edéhzhíe will be managed through a partnership between the Dehcho and the federal government by a board of directors, a local Indigenous conservation group known as the Dehcho K’ehodi guardians, and the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Edéhzhíe is the first Indigenous Protected Area to be announced since the February 2018 federal budget included $1.3-billion for establishing protected areas and conserving species at risk.  This declaration takes Canada a step closer to meeting our international Aichi Target commitment to protect 17 per cent of all lands and inland waters by 2020. Edéhzhíe would be formally recognized in federal law as a National Wildlife Area under the Canada Wildlife Act.

For more information of this designation, please read the following coverage:

If you have not yet done so, sign the Thank You Letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Sharkwater Extinction – A Beautiful and Heartbreaking Tribute
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Sharkwater Extinction – A Beautiful and Heartbreaking Tribute

On October 3rd 2018, I attended the Special Advance Screening of Sharkwater Extinction – an action-packed journey following late filmmaker Rob Stewart across four continents in his attempt to investigate the illegal shark fin industry that is leading to the global extinction of sharks. This movie is a beautiful tribute to Rob Stewart and his tireless efforts to conserve sharks. The imagery engaged is stunningly gorgeous – it draws you into the mysterious aquatic world and evokes compassion for the world’s oldest creatures. The film is heart-wrenching as it tells the story of violence inflicted upon sharks daily. Sharkwater Extinction highlights the fact that over 100 million sharks are killed each year. This mass-slaughter has resulted in a 90% decline in shark populations over the last 30 years. Sharks are illegally killed for their fins to be used in shark-fin soup. Many sharks are also caught accidentally as by-catch in fishing operations – a heartbreaking truth demonstrated by footage of sharks caught in fishing nets off the coast of Los Angeles. Alarmingly, it seems sharks are also being caught purposely to be relabeled as “ocean whitefish,” sold at supermarkets and used in products such as cat food and cosmetics. Rob’s first movie, Sharkwater, exposed the issue of shark finning for shark fin soup and resulted in changes to laws and public policy in over 90 countries worldwide. Although the finning of sharks is banned in Canadian waters, the import of sharks is not banned. Lawmakers are currently working to change this and increase protections for sharks in Canadian law.

Nature lovers, conservationists and movie lovers alike will enjoy the beautiful and heartbreaking film. Sharkwater Extinction will be in Canadian theatres on October 19!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMB7f_38dco

Federal Government Fails Endangered Orcas
Photo by Nicole Peshy, an Orca hunting a Sea Lion.
News

Federal Government Fails Endangered Orcas

Threats to the endangered Southern Resident Orcas associated with marine vessels are set to increase with the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada have an opportunity to protect the Southern Resident Orca population from such threats by declaring an Emergency Order under the Species at Risk Act.

The Audit on Marine Mammals

Julie Gelfand, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada conducted an audit to determine whether Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada and Transport Canada adequately protected marine mammals in waters under the jurisdiction of the federal government from threats posed by marine vessels and commercial fishing during the period of 1 January 2012 and 1 June 2018. The Commissioner’s report was released October 2, 2018 and is available here: Report 2 – Protecting Marine Mammals. To summarize her official report, the Commissioner found that relevant federal authorities had not fully applied existing policies and tools to manage threats to marine mammals that stem from commercial fishing and marine vessels. Threats from commercial fishing include entanglements, bycatch, depletion of food sources such as salmon, noise and disturbance, oil spills and collisions with marine vessels. Risks posed by underwater noise and disturbance from marine vessels, collisions and oil spills could impede the recovery or speed the decline of marine mammal populations.

Species at Risk Management

The Commissioner also found that for 11 out of 14 marine mammal species listed as endangered or threatened under the Species at Risk Act, DFO could not demonstrate that it had implemented management measures to reduce threats from commercial fishing and marine vessels. Thus, the Commissioner found that management tools have not been used to protect marine mammals until the situation became severe.

Southern Resident Orcas

The plight of British Columbia’s Southern Resident Orcas demonstrate the impact of delaying management measures. While the Southern Resident Orca was listed as endangered in 2003, an Action Plan was not finalized until 2017. The Commissioner’s report found that DFO only began to implement management measures to address threats to the Southern Resident Orcas in 2017 and 2018. The Southern Resident Orcas are currently experiencing fatalities due to strikes with marine vessels and stress from noise and disturbance caused by marine shipping vessels. Both of these threats would intensify with increased marine shipping traffic associated with the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

To read recent coverage of this topic, consult the following

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