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Conservation Groups Petition Federal Government to Protect Endangered Orcas

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The federal government must turn good words into better deeds and actively move to protect the southern resident orca population, says a coalition of conservation groups.

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation, and other organizations are urging the federal government to keep sports fisherman and whale watchers well back from orca feeding grounds, and to severely limit fishing on the particular Chinook salmon populations that sustain them, the Vancouver Sun reports.

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Such action is urgently required says Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, pointing out that the notoriously shy orca currently share their feeding grounds on the Salish Sea with as many as 24 whale-watching boats a day, and 55,000 recreational fishing boats per season.

The coalition is also asking that commercial shipping traffic be required to slow down as it passes critical feeding areas, “to limit acoustic interference that hampers the orcas’ ability to locate and catch prey.”

“The federal government has invested a lot in understanding these issues, but has done nothing to actually reduce the threat,” MacDuffee says. “They’ve done lots of research, they hold symposia, they are saying good things [like actually listing the southern resident orcas as endangered under the Species at Risk Act], but they have been saying this for some time and done nothing.”

The petitioners note the government has its own ready-made solution to hand: its Resident Killer Whale Action Plan [2], released last year, “aims to ensure access to food, reduce disturbance due to human activities, protect whales from pollution, and protect critical habitat for northern and southern resident killer whales.”

The southern resident population stands at only 76, down seven from two years ago.