Humpback Whales in Peril Due to Canada Relaxing Conservation Rules

Humpback WhalesCiting biologists’ urging from 2011, humpback whales are in peril due to Canada relaxing conservation rules in British Columbia. They are advocating for the species to be withdrawn from the “threatened” species list. Under the new designation, the whales and their habitats would no longer be legally protected by the National Strategy for the Protection of Species at Risk.  According to a federal advisory panel, the humpback population off the coast of B.C. is growing vigorously, thus no longer requiring protection under the “threatened” category.  Be that as it may, there are currently only 80,000 humpbacks that remain worldwide, 2,200 of which call the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia home. Critics are apprehensive that the move to declassify the humpback whales down to a formerly vulnerable species will open the door for the Northern Gateway pipeline project to go through.  In about two months there will be a ruling on whether or not the pipeline project will be enabled.

Because Canada relaxed the rules of conservation of humpback whales the whales’ habitat, which is essential to their survival and which happens to run right through Enbridge’s proposed tanker highway, would no longer be safeguarded.  Also, certain other general legal constraints would be removed.  A statement made public which backs the Canadian Government endorsement declares that the downgrade in conservation of the humpback whales could result in a small boon to industry in the form of cost savings by not having to find alternate routes for tankers. One of the areas designated critical habitat is located close to Kitimat, B.C. the suggested western end of the pipeline, the same locale whales cultivate their offspring in the warmer months from May to October.  If the pipeline is given the green light, the region is promising to be a major tanker thoroughfare, putting humpback whales in peril due to Canada relaxing their conservation rules.

The environmental group Living Oceans Society declared that while the population of humpbacks has risen since they were safeguarded from hunting in 1966, it is unclear how current populations compare to levels before hunting began as early as the eighteenth century. The humpbacks’ recovery is not an excuse to become complacent; without their natural home, they are not expected to thrive. Because Canada relaxes their rules of conservation of humpback whales, it is being viewed as a political maneuver by those that oppose the pipeline. Various groups are alarmed at the reduction in management levels and worry that the whales are in peril due to Canada relaxing its conservation rules and will become disrupted by heavy tanker traffic, toxic oil spills, and loud noises that would interfere with the raising of their young.

Canada responded that the area off Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Reserve near Haida Gwaii is still protected due to its being classified as a dominant feeding ground for the humpback whales. The reserve covers 3,400 square kilometers and is located off the west coast of Canada. They also pointed out that the Fisheries Act and Marine Mammal Regulations would still be utilized in the conservation of the whales. Fisheries and Oceans acknowledged concerns but said that the relaxation of protection was not expected to affect the whales population or growth rates. World Wildlife Fund Canada stated that the whales’ recovery was not complete and that everyone still needs to be working to protect them, and that the danger to humpback whales, who are in peril due to Canada relaxing their conservation rules, is a real threat.

By Korrey Laderoute

CBC News
Financial Post
Huffington Post British Columbia





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