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Ottawa, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): Voluntary protective measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales on Canada’s West Coast have been proposed by a group of commercial marine shipping carriers and their agents, media reports said.
Southern Resident Killer Whales/Facebook
These volunteers are hoping that it would avoid additional regulations; while on the other hand, a group of conservation groups is taking an aim at the federal government.
For the past three years, the Chamber of Shipping and its members have participated in the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program, a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led initiative aimed at better understanding and managing the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia.
Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program/Facebook
The ECHO Program had been focusing on areas based on three threat categories identified by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Recovery Strategy.
The projects in each category are aimed at informing the development of measures to reduce threats to whales, which are mainly acoustic disturbance (underwater noise); physical disturbance (ship collisions); environmental contaminants; and the availability of prey, in particular Chinook salmon, for southern resident killer whales is critical to the species survival.
International shipping attribute to approximately 50 percent of the vessel-generated noise in the Salish Sea.
Recovery of endangered whales was supported by a successful operational trial in 2017 and the implementation of effective voluntary noise mitigation measures in 2018, which included reduction in vessel speed in Haro Strait and a lateral displacement of vessels away from known foraging areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Although more regulations are required, Robert Lewis-Manning, the Chamber’s president said that such an approach would speed up the progress in industry.
The group had acknowledged that Southern Resident killer whales face at least three anthropogenic threats including prey availability, acoustic and physical disturbance, and contaminants from the environment, said the Chamber.
Waters off the B.C. coast and a large part of the Salish Sea -- the most affected areas -- are designated as critical habitat and protected by law
Six conservation organizations including EcoJustice, WWF-Canada, and the Natural Resources Defence Council have recently filed a lawsuit against the Government of Canada claiming that it failed to implement an Emergency Protection Order under the Species at Risk Act.
“In her unprecedented 17-days of mourning, J-35, the killer whale also known as Tahlequah, showed us the devastating consequences of inaction on this issue, Ecojustice lawyer Dyna Tuytel said. “Given Minister Wilkinson and Minister McKenna’s failure to recommend emergency protections in a timely fashion, we have little choice but to turn to the courts.”
“The Species at Risk Act gives the Canadian government broad authority to protect at-risk species facing imminent threats to their survival or recovery. It is shocking that Minister Wilkinson and Minister McKenna have not yet recommended an emergency order to protect Southern Resident killer whales,” said Michael Jasny, director of marine mammal protection at Natural Resources Defense Council added. “It is difficult to imagine a species in more urgent need.”
“While our sector is supportive of action to address all anthropogenic threats, such action must be considered with a complete understanding and appreciation of the complexity of operating large commercial vessels safely as well as existing measures currently underway, all while avoiding the unintended safety, operational, or ecological consequences,” the Chamber press release stated.
The shipping industry accounts for 1.8 percent of the Canadian economy and ships move more than $200 billion worth of goods to and from global markets.
The Chamber of Shipping’s efforts to protect whales in Canada’s Pacific Gateway is supported by ocean and coastal carriers, Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, and the United States Coast Guard.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)