Tips for input to DFO’s Scientific Review on orcas

photo: Rachael Merrett

On the heels of Orca Awareness month in the Pacific Northwest, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has opened a platform for feedback on its scientific review of the effectiveness of recovery measures for southern resident killer whales (SRKW).

DFO is seeking public input to identify how recovery can be better achieved by accelerating implementation of recovery measures not yet underway; by identifying new measures, if needed; and by providing guidance on the priority of recovery measures to promote recovery.

Georgia Strait Alliance is advocating for a number of actions to be implemented immediately to ensure southern residents have the best chance at true recovery. These are divided into the three main threats to orcas: salmon abundance, noise pollution and toxins.

Please select a few actions that you think will help orcas recover, and email your input directly to DFO.

To mitigate the threat of low Chinook salmon abundance and availability, look for:

  1. Implementation of temporary strategic closures of Chinook fisheries in areas that support SRKWs, especially for Chinook stocks that spawn in the Fraser and Columbia Rivers.
  2. Funding for restoring salmon spawning habitat through the removal of obsolete dams on the rivers, re-planting forests that have been cleared to the foreshore, and eliminating sources of sewage dumping into the waterways.
  3. Allocation of a portion of the Chinook salmon stock to SRKWs and other marine predators in the fisheries management plan.
  4. Reducing the allowable amount of Chinook bi-catch in other fisheries.
  5. Determination of the population abundance and availability of the fish that Chinook eat, especially herring, and implement any changes needed to protect these stocks to ensure that Chinook have access to the food they need to recover.
  6. Transitioning from open net cage fish farms to closed containment facilities that are on land.

More on the importance of salmon abundance

To reduce the threat of noise pollution, look for:

  1. Increasing the whale watching viewing distance to 200m (from 100m) for both commercial and recreational vessels to align with U.S. regulations.
  2. Determination of the baseline levels of noise within the SRKW critical habitat, followed by a reduction and cap on the allowable noise to a level that does not harm whales.
  3. Prevention of new sources of noise pollution from an increase in tanker traffic associated with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and other proposed fossil fuel projects within the Salish Sea.
  4. Implementation of regulations requiring large vessels (cruise ships, ferries, tankers, freighters) to reduce their speed through SRKW habitat.
  5. Implementation of regulations/incentives for large vessels to be equipped with propellers and engine systems that greatly reduce their noise output.

More on how SRKWs are drowning in noise

To eliminate the threat of toxic contamination, look for:

  1. Acceleration of the timelines to upgrading wastewater treatment facilities to a minimum of secondary treatment, particularly for the Iona waste-water treatment plant in the Lower Mainland, which won’t be upgraded until 2030.
  2. Inclusion of monitoring of PCBs and flame retardants in effluent discharged from waste-water treatment facilities.
  3. Prioritization of the removal of derelict vessels in BC waters to prevent the introduction of toxins (fuel, oil and paints) into the waterways.
  4. Provision of secure, long-term funding to organizations that conduct contaminants research and monitoring as DFO no longer has a department that focuses on contaminants research and monitoring. Therefore, funding is needed to support organizations that are doing this work.
  5. Increased funding for oil spill response equipment and training.

More on how SRKWs are threatened by toxic contamination