Pipeline Buyout Compromises Ottawa’s Responsibility to Protect B.C.’s Killer Whales
Federal restrictions on British Columbia’s annual summer Chinook salmon fishery will help stave off immediate starvation among the endangered Southern resident killer whale population, but imperiled habitats and political imperatives continue to threaten both species, reports the Globe and Mail.
The primary food source for the killer whales, the Chinook is “in decline up and down the coast,” and B.C. Premier John Horgan’s government is being pressured not to renew 20 fish farm tenures in the Broughton Archipelago on the grounds that the farms incubate diseases that are killing the wild species. Creating a “dilemma” for Horgan, writes the Globe, is the fact that fish farming contributes significantly to the regional economy.
Ottawa’s decision to reduce the Chinook fishery is, in itself, more straightforward: the 76 remaining Southern resident whales “face an imminent threat to survival”, and so fall clearly under the protection of the federal Species At Risk Act. Trying to secure their food supply was an easy move.
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Rather more complicated will be Ottawa’s efforts to square its interest in protecting the whales—further threatened by both pollution and underwater noise from vessel traffic—with its full-throttle commitment to a multi-billion dollar pipeline expansion “that will add one large tanker of heavy oil a day to the waters where the whales live and feed.”
Horgan’s government has made its own position on the matter clear, citing the fragility of the Southern resident population as one of its reasons for opposing the Kinder Morgan (now known as the Taxpayer Mountain) pipeline expansion.
Meanwhile, writes the Globe, “as part of the Oceans Protections Plan (which was promised in conjunction with the pipeline approval), Canada has committed to study the cumulative impact of underwater noise on the whales.”