Victory for Killer Whales in Canada!

In a landmark decision, a Canadian federal court judge has ruled that the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has failed to provide enough protection for killer whales off the coast of British Columbia.

IFAW was part of a coalition of nine environmental groups led by EcoJustice involved in the lawsuit. The coalition also included the David Suzuki Foundation, Dogwood Initiative, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace, Georgia Strait Alliance, Raincoast Conservation, Sierra Club of BC, and the Wilderness Committee.

Justice James Russell ruled that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not taking enough action to prevent significant threats to critical whale habitat  -  such as chemical pollution and physical and acoustic disurbance  -  and has failed to protect the whales' food sources such as salmon.

Killer whales, also known as orcas, are top predators in the marine food web and considered a "sentinel species," meaning their status is an overall indicator of the marine environment's ecological condition.  The southern resident orcas  are listed as endangered with a population of about 85, while there are about 220 northern dwellers, which are  considered threatened.  However, this victory should ensure stronger legal protection for all of Canada's marine species under the federal Species at Risk Act.

The judgement called DFO's conduct evasive and ambiguous,  and sends a strong message to DFO  that they must to do a better job in the future. Given the Department's track record, we can only hope that this will lead to increased protection for Canada's marine wildlife.

More information on this case is available courtesy of EcoJustice.

-- SF

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