Statement: Conservation groups respond to decision not to issue emergency protections for endangered whales

The federal government announced today that it refuses to issue an emergency order to protect endangered killer whales under the Species at Risk Act, despite the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans’ recommendation to do so.

David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Georgia Strait Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and WWF-Canada issued the following statement in response:

“While we are pleased that the ministers recommended issuing an emergency order to protect the Southern Resident killer whales in the first place, we are deeply disappointed that Cabinet rejected what we believe to be the best tool to recover these whales. With only 74 remaining, Southern Residents are in crisis.

The government has promised to take comprehensive actions by April that will halt the decline and begin the recovery of these iconic whales. We and our supporters are committed to ensuring the government keeps its promise.”


An emergency order is a legal tool that allows the government to cut through regulatory red tape and introduce wide-ranging protections for species at risk.

Ecojustice issued a petition on behalf of the conservation groups in January 2018, calling for Canada to address threats to the Southern Residents with an emergency order. When the ministers did not initially respond with an order, the groups filed a suit on Sept. 5.

They are currently assessing options for the future of that litigation, and continue to call for enforceable protection measures that:

  1. Designate additional areas of protected critical habitat on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
  2. Create feeding refuges where commercial and recreational salmon fishing, and whale watching on Southern Resident killer whales are prohibited.
  3. Close marine commercial and recreational Chinook fisheries that catch Chinook from Southern B.C. and other stocks known to be important to the diets of southern residents.
  4. Restrict commercial and private recreational whale-watching on Southern Resident killer whales in Critical Habitat from May 1 through Nov. 30.
  5. Set mandatory targets to reduce noise and disturbance from commercial vessels traveling in critical habitat and take steps to quantifiably reduce the cumulative levels of noise and disturbance from all marine traffic.


  • Always grounded in sound evidence, the David Suzuki Foundation empowers people to take action in their communities on the environmental challenges we collectively face.
  • Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.
  • Since 1990, Georgia Strait Alliance has been an effective voice for communities who care about the waters of Georgia Strait and all the creatures that call it home.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with a more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment.
  • Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a team of conservationists and scientists empowered by research to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. As a charitable, non-profit conservation science organization that operates a research lab, research station and a research/sailing vessel, they are unique in Canada.
  • WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. For more information, visit