Killer Whale recovery strategy release puts lawsuit off — for now

June 26, 2007

VANCOUVER, BC – After a year’s delay and a threat of legal action, the federal government has released the long-awaited recovery strategy for BC’s endangered Southern resident killer whales and threatened Northern resident killer whales.

Environmentalists, who prompted the recovery strategy’s release by threatening a lawsuit, offered cautious praise. They noted that the most essential component of recovery strategies, identification of critical habitat, had finally been included. Critical habitat cannot be protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) unless it is identified in a recovery strategy.

“We are pleased that DFO has finally released this strategy with some of the killer whales’ habitat clearly identified and mapped,” commented Christianne Wilhelmson of Georgia Strait Alliance. “Without this important part of the strategy, the future of the species would have truly been in doubt.”

The strategy was created by a team of both government and non-government killer whale experts. The recovery team produced the strategy over a year ago, but the federal government delayed release of the document until threatened with a lawsuit last month by Sierra Legal acting on behalf of Georgia Strait Alliance and the Wilderness Committee.

Environmentalists are hoping that the killer whale strategy release marks a turning point for the federal government which is refusing to release recovery strategies that identify critical habitat, resulting in a vast backlog and at least one other lawsuit.

“SARA says recovery plans must identify critical habitat,” said Lara Tessaro of Sierra Legal. “If this killer whale strategy marks a turning point, we are pleased. If it doesn’t, we’ll be back in court.”

“We need a commitment from federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn and Environment Minister John Baird that politics won’t trump science when it comes to our endangered wildlife,” said Gwen Barlee with the Wilderness Committee. “I call on these Ministers to retain the independence of recovery teams and let scientists – not bureaucrats and politicians – decide which habitat merits protection.”

For more information, please contact:

Gwen Barlee, Policy Director, Wilderness Committee
(604) 683-8220, cell (604) 202-0322

Christianne Wilhelmson, Program Coordinator, Georgia Strait Alliance
(604) 633-0530, cell (604) 862-7579

Lara Tessaro, Staff Lawyer, Sierra Legal
(604) 685-5618 ext.245, cell (604) 313-3132

Visit SARA registry: www.sararegistry.gc.ca/plans/timelines_e.cfm to view the Recovery Strategy

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