The Government of Canada is protecting and recovering the iconic and culturally important Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whales. These whales hold a special significance to Canadians, and Indigenous Peoples and play an important role as apex predators in our oceans ecosystem.
Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, is announcing he has created two new areas of critical habitat for iconic Resident Killer Whales. These new areas build on existing critical habitat established in 2009 to protect the marine ecosystem that is necessary for the survival and recovery of the Resident Killer Whales.
This announcement builds on the $167 million Whales Initiative announced in 2018 and the October 2018 investment of $61.5 million targeting key threats faced by the Southern Resident Killer Whale, including:
- lack of available prey (Chinook salmon);
- acoustic and physical disturbance from marine vessels; and
- contaminants in the water.
Specific measures already introduced to protect this endangered species include expanding vessel slowdowns, enhancing regulatory controls on contaminants and investments aimed at protecting and recovering Chinook salmon stocks.
The newly identified areas of critical habitat announced today are located in the waters off the coast of southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks, and in western Dixon Entrance, all of which are key foraging areas for both Resident Killer Whales. These new zones will increase the area of critical habitat for endangered killer whales by approximately 6,419 square kilometers to an area of approximately 10,714 square kilometres of Canadian waters. Designating these areas as “critical habitat” ensures they are legally protected against destruction that could hinder survival or recovery of the whales.
The Government of Canada thanks all stakeholders for their commitment to working together to ensure the survival and recover of these iconic endangered whales.
- Going forward, the government will be considering what additional measures are required to enhance protection within these areas of critical habitat to assist with the recovery of the whale population.
- Collaboration and consultation with coastal communities, environmental and industry stakeholders and Indigenous groups is ongoing as we consider fishery management decisions and the creation of whale sanctuaries.
- We will work to address concerns expressed by some coastal communities regarding potential economic impacts of any proposed additional measures and remain focused on taking action to address all three key threats to the Southern Resident Killer Whale population by spring 2019.
- Southern Resident Killer Whales are listed as Endangered and Northern Resident Killer Whales as Threatened under SARA. These two populations are acoustically, genetically, and culturally distinct.
- A Critical Habitat Order focuses on protecting from destruction specific geographic locations and conditions essential for the survival and recovery of the species. It applies to any ongoing or future human activities that could result in the destruction of any part of the identified critical habitat for a species at risk.
- Threats to Southern Resident and Northern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat are managed and will continue to be managed through existing mechanisms under federal legislation, such as the Fisheries Act.
- Proposed activities in areas designated as critical habitat must be assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure they will not destroy critical habitat. SARA provides tools such as permits that can be issued with conditions considered necessary for protecting the species, minimizing the impact of the authorized activity on the species, or providing for its recovery.
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