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431-00283 (Environment)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED

We, the undersigned residents of the coast and islands of British Columbia draw the attention of the House to the following:

THAT the native species of Orcinus orca (Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whales) which live in the waters off British Columbia and which have been declared threatened and endangered under Canada's Species At Risk Act, require immediate and vigorous protection in order to survive. Their population is dwindling while the threats against them (underwater engine noise and sonar from vessels, collisions with boat traffic, lack of prey due to salmon over-fishing and degradation of spawning rivers, and entanglement in lost fishing gear) are multiplying.

THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon Parliament to strengthen the Killer Whale Recovery Plan required under the Species At Risk Act and administered by Parks Canada, by legally requiring reduction in underwater noise from commercial, recreational and transport vessels, limiting the amount of tanker and freighter traffic in the Salish Sea east and south of Vancouver Island, placing a moratorium on Chinook and herring sport, commercial and Native fisheries until stocks rebuild, and legally requiring electronic chip identifiers in and mandatory recovery of lost fishing gear drifting in the ocean.

Response by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Bernadette Jordan

Protecting species at risk is a responsibility shared by all Canadians. The federal government is committed to working with all levels of government, Indigenous peoples, industry and environmental stakeholders, and with all Canadians in implementing the Species at Risk Act. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting and taking action to support the survival and recovery of the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale, which are listed as Threatened and Endangered, respectively under the Species at Risk Act. We share your concern regarding the variety of anthropogenic threats that these two populations face, including the principal threats of environmental contamination, reduced prey availability, and both physical and acoustic disturbance.

Under the Species At Risk Act, the Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada (2008) identifies and describes the threats, critical habitat, recovery goal and objectives, and broad strategies to recover Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale populations. In 2018, the Recovery Strategy was amended to incorporate additional critical habitat areas for both populations, including waters of west Dixon Entrance, along the north coast of Graham Island from Langara to Rose Spit for Northern Resident Killer Whales and the waters on the continental shelf off southwestern Vancouver Island, including  Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks, for both Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. These critical habitat areas, as well as those previously identified, are legally protected from destruction. The Recovery Strategy is publicly available, please visit: https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/virtual_sara/files/plans/Rs-ResidentKillerWhale-v00-2018dec-Eng.pdf. In addition, a five-year report on the implementation of the recovery strategy was published in 2016 and a progress report for the subsequent five-year period (2015-2019) is currently being drafted. These  reports capture the progress made toward achieving the objectives set out in the recovery strategy, such as knowledge gained from increased monitoring and research on the sources and impacts of contaminants, expanded acoustic monitoring systems, cumulative effects, and enhanced management measures toward threat abatement. For more information please visit: https://sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/5yr-ResidentKillerWhale-v00-2016Sep28-Eng.pdf.

The Action Plan for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) in Canada (2017) includes 98 recovery measures that provide more detailed recovery planning actions to support the strategic direction set out in the Recovery Strategy. The Action Plan is also publicly available, please visit: https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/virtual_sara/files/plans/Ap-ResidentKillerWhale-v00-2017Mar-Eng.pdf. The implementation of the Action Plan is underway and the progress towards meeting its objectives are monitored and will be reported on in 2022.

On May 7, 2020, the Minister of Transport, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced a suite of management measures for 2020 to protect the remaining 72 Southern Resident Killer Whales. The suite of measures builds on previous years’ management measures and is based on the best available science and input from the Southern Resident Killer Whale Indigenous and Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group and Technical Working Groups, Indigenous groups, stakeholders, the public, and the governments of British Columbia (BC) and the United States. The 2020 management measures include: fishery closures; Interim Sanctuary Zones that prohibit vessels from entering those areas; an increase in the vessel approach distance from 200 metres to 400 metres for all killer whales; the implementation of voluntary slowdowns and the lateral displacement of large commercial vessel traffic in key areas; and comprehensive guidance on best practices for boaters in the presence of killer whales (e.g., turning off echo sounders, putting engines in neutral idle, ceasing fishing within 1000 metres of killer whales). DFO is also working with its federal partners to monitor the efficacy of these measures in reducing underwater noise through the collection of acoustic data from hydrophones placed at a number of locations within Resident Killer Whale habitat. For more information on these measures please visit: https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/whales-baleines/srkw-measures-mesures-ers-eng.html.

Numerous of the measures listed above have been developed to reduce underwater noise and reduce the potential impacts of vessel traffic in the Salish Sea. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) also works closely with partners to develop practices for the avoidance of Killer whales, such as the use of marine mammal observers on board vessels and technological solutions. To help improve boaters’ understanding of vessel behaviour around whales and support education to local boaters, Be Whale Wise, a Canada-US partnership of governmental agencies, non-profits and other stakeholders in the Salish Sea, researches, implements and educates best vessel practices around whales. The Be Whale Wise team helps create consistent messaging and education for vessel operators.

Regarding the threat of entanglements, DFO works with external partners including Straitwatch, Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs), the wild capture fishing and aquaculture industries, and academia on a range of mitigation and response initiatives including education and outreach, surveillance, reporting, and response to incidents of entangled whales. DFO has also recently introduced the Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program, which supports projects to retrieve or dispose of ghost gear, invest in innovative gear technology, and encourage international leadership (https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/mammals-mammiferes/ghostgear-equipementfantome/index-eng.html). In addition to the support for ghost gear removal and disposal projects, DFO implemented mandatory requirements in 2020 in commercial fisheries licences to report lost or retrieved fishing gear. For online reporting forms please visit: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fisheries-peches/commercial-commerciale/reporting-declaration-eng.html.

DFO manages fisheries based on the Department’s Precautionary Approach to Fishery Decision-making, drawing on the best available science to  support the health and sustainability of stocks for the future. On June 19, 2020, my Department announced important measures  to support the recovery of Fraser River Chinook salmon stocks. For more information please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/fisheries-oceans/news/2020/06/government-of-canada-takes-action-to-address-threats-to-struggling-fraser-river-chinook.html. Moreover, the salmon fishery closures and Interim Sanctuary Zones for Southern Resident Killer Whales referenced above are specifically intended to support the availability of Chinook in key foraging areas for Southern Resident Killer Whales and reduce vessel disturbance. Longer term work to define and implement recovery measures for southern BC Chinook will continue to be advanced with input from the multi-sectoral Southern BC Chinook Planning Committee that my Department has convened to provide input on this topic.

DFO recognizes that both Chinook and herring play important roles in the marine ecosystem. In addition to our Chinook recovery efforts, extensive work to evaluate and revise our herring management approach has also taken place over the last four years with input from First Nations, commercial fishers, and others. The 2019-20 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan provides details on DFO’s management approach for this fishery and is publically available; please visit: https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/mplans/herring-hareng-ifmp-pgip-sm-eng.pdf. DFO continually adjusts its management measures for all of these stocks as new information about their status becomes available.

 

Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
June 17, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00283)
Government response tabled
September 24, 2020
Photo - Paul Manly
Nanaimo—Ladysmith
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia

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