Environmental groups urge killer whale action

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Environmental charities Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society are recommending the government of Canada impose an emergency order to help save the vulnerable southern resident killer whale population.

The charities have sent a petition to the federal government recommending Cabinet issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to protect the whale population. The recommendations detail ways to boost the amount of chinook salmon that make up the whales’ food as well as reduce noise pollution by reducing fishing and boat traffic in areas around Vancouver Island. The whales’ biggest threat is the reduction of their prey and noise caused by vessel traffic.

While there are many whales in the area, southern resident killer whales are distinct from other killer whale populations. 

Misty MacDuffee, a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, explained that the whales are “classified as a distinct ecotype. There are killer whales all over the world and they tend to specialize on certain species . . . Resident killer whales all over the world are fish eaters, but depending on where in the world, they are eating different fish.”

The southern residents eat chinook salmon, which have been decimated by human fishing in the area for years.

“What we know now is that there are these really strong bonds and social cohesion amongst pod members,” said MacDuffee. “We know now that these are matrilineal family units, these pods of whales that make up the southern residents . . . We know they have a distinct language.”

The whales not only share a language but also share their food and only breed within their specific populations.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 31, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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