Measures to support the survival and recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale

The Government of Canada is implementing a series of emergency protection measures to support the survival and recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW). These measures were the result of an announcement in May 2018 whereby the Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency and the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, as the competent Ministers under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), formed the opinion that SRKW are facing imminent threats to their survival and recovery. The 3 key threats to the population were identified as prey availability, acoustic and physical disturbance, and environmental contaminants.

Actions to address these 3 key inter-related threats to SRKW are underway by the Government of Canada and other partners, but further actions are proposed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, Parks Canada Agency and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to augment ongoing activities and implement additional protection. This initiative is expected to lead to an enhanced and ongoing capacity to protect whales in general and SRKW in particular. The initiative will have a positive effect on the environment and health of Canada’s oceans and coastlines through implementation of a suite of measures to address: prey availability; acoustic and physical disturbance; and regulatory measures to reduce contaminant threats to SRKW survival and recovery.

ECCC has proposed stronger regulations for persistent organic pollutants, which are contaminants of concern to the SRKW, their prey and habitat.  Currently, the department is working on proposing more stringent regulations for 7 substances and/or groups of substances consisting of flame-retardants and oil and water repellents, which are already listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). The department is also developing regulatory measures for additional flame-retardants recently assessed as toxic, in order to prohibit their manufacture, import, use, sale, offer of sale and products that contain them. In addition, under existing funding through the Budget 2018 Whales Initiative, ECCC  is conducting complementary activities for endangered whales, including the SRKW, such as monitoring and surveillance of contaminant levels in air, freshwater, landfill leachate and ocean disposal locations to improve our understanding of contaminant contributions.

Reducing threats to the SRKW will also benefit other species at risk and prevent some species from becoming at risk. These measures are in line with an ecosystem approach to recovery, will contribute to the health of the environment, and in particular the oceans, for the benefit of all species, including humans.

The stronger regulations will contribute to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goals and targets of Healthy coast and oceans and Healthy wildlife populations. The measures will also contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 14 Life Below Water to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.  

To ensure a whole-of-government approach, and consistent and complementary application with other initiatives for SRKW, in particular the Oceans Protection Plan and Budget 2018 Whales Initiative, a committee has been created with Assistant Deputy Ministers (ADMs) from the Departments responsible for the recovery of these species. This interdepartmental ADM Committee will be responsible for reporting on progress and results of the SRKW Initiative to Ministers and Canadians.

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