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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Canadian Government Sued Over SRKW Protection

In an unprecedented action, eight Canadian conservation organizations have collectively filed a lawsuit against Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, claiming the government is allowing destruction of critical habitat for Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) despite the population being listed on the Species At Risk Act (SARA). One of the roles of SARA, which is similar to the United States' Endangered Species Act, is to prohibit the destruction of habitat that is vital to any of the listed species. The conservation groups, lead by Ecojustice, are filing the lawsuit in reaction to the federal government's recent claim that killer whale habitat is already protected under previous legislation and guidelines. According to an Edmonton Journal article, the response from enviornmentalists is that "the legislation is too broad and the guidelines are without teeth".

With the recent drop of the local killer whale population, this lawsuit couldn't be any more timely. Chinook salmon runs aren't recovering and some whales are showing reduced blubber reserves; the water is full of toxins, some of them on the rise; and anthropogenic oceanic noise is increasing - so it will be interesting to see how the government responds to these facts that plainly show there are major threats that need to be dealt with in terms of vital killer whale habitat.

This lawsuit will have huge impacts on many other species listed under SARA as well. The government is obviously looking for ways to avoid its obligations to listed species, and if this effort to protect such a clearly threatened population is derailed, it is unlikely any other species will fair better.

This is a critical time for these orcas, and the result of this lawsuit will be a huge factor in whether or not they are able to overcome the current threats they face. Undoubtedly, Canada's actions will also play a role in what the US does, either by giving them an excuse to opt out of further conservation measures, or, hopefully, by putting pressure on them to take action to protect killer whale habitat as well.

You can find more articles about this lawsuit on Orca Network's news page.

1 comment:

Michele Wassell said...

Hi Monika... I sure hope this lawsuit will do the whales and other wildlife justice. I just don't see how anyone can neglect the needs of beautiful, living creatures. Thanks for keeping us updated. Have a great weekend....