Thursday, May 24, 2007

Delayed Killer Whale Recovery Strategy

After nearly a year of unlawful delays, the latest caused by the Canadian military, environmental groups issued a warning to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) today to release the Recovery Strategy for BC's famous resident killer whales, or face a lawsuit. The Southern Resident Killer Whales are an endangered species under Canada's Species at Risk Act (SARA). Under SARA a team of marine scientists was tasked with creating a science-based plan that identifies habitat, conservation threats, and recovery recommendations. For the last year, DFO has blocked the release of the Team's Recovery Strategy, which DFO was legally required to release by June 1, 2006. Additionally, according to a Canadian military document, the Department of National Defence (DND) is trying to downplay and re-write scientists' concerns over military sonar threats to killer whales in BC waters. The Canadian military conducts sonar testing in the whales' habitat, often in joint operations with the US Navy. "Even the military acknowledges that sonar threatens whales with harm," said Christianne Wilhelmson of Georgia Strait Alliance. "The military must stop interfering with this science-based Recovery Strategy, and we call on the Canadian government to release it immediately." As an example of DND efforts to weaken the Recovery Strategy, it wants to remove the scientists' recommendation that new laws to reduce injury to killer whales from sonar testing be considered. The military is arguing that Canadian and American naval vessels operating in Canadian waters should not be bound by sonar-specific regulations. "Military objectives have no place in a killer whale recovery strategy," said Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee. "If battleships trump science we won't be able to recover this species. "The Species at Risk Act requires Recovery Strategies to follow strict timelines to protect endangered species, to discourage bureaucrats from talking endlessly while a species faces extirpation," said Lara Tessaro of Sierra Legal. "DFO delays risk not only the Killer Whales, but many endangered marine mammals and fish as well." The environmental groups have sent DFO a letter, threatening to file a lawsuit if DFO does not release the Resident Killer Whale Recovery Strategy by June 4, 2007.

Canadian News Wire

1 comment:

aquagreen said...

British Columbian environmental groups called off plans to sue the Canadian government after it released a recovery strategy for killer whales Tuesday, about a year later than originally planned. The Canadian plan calls for ensuring that resident killer whales in Puget Sound and off Vancouver Island have an adequate and accessible food supply, reducing chemical and biological pollution, keeping human activities from disturbing the orcas and protecting their critical habitat. The report promises more specifics within two years of the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans accepting the plan. Canadian environmental groups praised the strategy for identifying specific whale habitat that needs protection. "Without this important part of the strategy, the future of the species would have truly been in doubt," said Christianne Wilhelmson of Georgia Strait Alliance. She said action can now be taken to address pollution, noise and human interference in identified whale habitats. The Canadian strategy covers Puget Sound's southern resident orcas as well as threatened killer whales that spend most of their time north of Vancouver Island. The U.S. government issued its own killer whale recovery plan in November 2006, after listing Puget Sound's resident killer whale population as an endangered species in November 2005. The U.S. plan focuses on supporting salmon restoration, cleaning contaminated sites in Puget Sound, reducing pollution, evaluating and improving guidelines for vessel traffic in and around protected areas, preventing oil spills, and improving response plans should spills occur. The National Marine Fisheries Service also designated critical habitat for the orcas: an area covering about 2,500 square miles, encompassing part of Haro Strait and the waters around the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and all of Puget Sound.