We Need Urgent Action to Save West Coast’s Beloved Killer Whales

A beloved population of killer whales is in serious trouble, according to a coalition of conversation organizations who say emergency measures must be taken immediately.

These orcas, otherwise known as the southern resident killer whales (SRKW), live in three distinct pods (J,K and L), who travel through Puget Sound, the Straight of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca during the summer months before migrating to open ocean in the winter.

Despite their popularity, they’re also highly endangered. Even with years of protection in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and in Canada under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), they’ve yet to make a comeback. Today, there are only 76 individual members left in existence.

Now, a coalition of conservation organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and World Wildlife Fund Canada is petitioning the Canadian government to take emergency action to protect them, which it has the authority to do under SARA for species at imminent risk.

“Southern Resident killer whales are in crisis and we need to act now if we want to prevent their extinction. Emergency orders are an effective legal tool that the Canadian government can use to protect a species from imminent threats to its survival or recovery. We’re calling on Minister LeBlanc and Minister McKenna to act now to save the Southern Residents before they disappear from the Salish Sea forever,” said Dyna Tuytel, a lawyer with Ecojustice, which is representing the coalition.

While they continue to face a host of threats ranging from boat noise to pollution, one of their biggest problems now is a lack of their main food source: Chinook salmon, which is also endangered. Both the Southern Residents, and their Northern Resident relatives who live off the coast of Canada, rely on this particular salmon for survival.

The coalition notes that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has previously acknowledged that the Southern Resident population continues to decline. Even with a small baby boom, they’ve continued to suffer heartbreaking losses that have made their extinction an increasingly likely scenario.

The coalition is now calling on the government to implement measures that would increase Chinook salmon. The measures include limiting commercial and recreational fishing, limiting boat disturbances, enforcing a buffer between them and boats and reducing boat speeds, and designating critical habitat for them off the coast of Vancouver Island.

“Government and independent analyses of this population indicate a 25 to 49 per cent risk of extinction this century if conditions don’t change. The good news is they can also recover if we reduce vessel disturbance and increase the availability of Chinook salmon,” said Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director at Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

The coalition has requested an answer by March 1, and may pursue legal action if there’s no response.

Take action!

Please show your support by signing and sharing the petition calling on Canada to take emergency action to protect these killer whales before it’s too late.

For more on efforts to help them in the U.S., check out the Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative, Orca Network, Center for Whale Research and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

48 comments

Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride18 days ago

I cannot see how killer whales can be loved, as they prey on other sea creatures, & can be very cruel.

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Lenore K
Lenore K19 days ago

pk

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Glennis W
Glennis W19 days ago

Will be so sad if they are not saved Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W19 days ago

All action must be taken to save these adorable whales Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W19 days ago

They must be saved now Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W19 days ago

Signed and shared Thank you for caring and sharing

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Winn A
Winn Adams19 days ago

Already Signed & Shared. This is off my coastline in Bellingham, WA.

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Cathy B
Cathy B19 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danii P
Danii P19 days ago

Thanks

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R19 days ago

💕I hope here on Care2 is much more than 7000 active voices for saving this majestic killer whales before it’s too late... Petition xxxx signed/shared with hope

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