It is no news that climate change has become a major societal topic over the past decade. Governments are trying their best to implement regulations to help reverse the impact that human activity is having on our ecosystem. Earlier in May, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans Minister, has announced recovery measures for the protection and preservation of the endangered southern resident killer whales off British Columbia’s coast. This decision was made as only 75 of them remain near our western coasts, and they are facing serious threats of extinction. Starting earlier this month, ships must maintain a minimum distance of 400m from all killer whales with the possible exception of commercial whale-watchers. The latter may be authorized to approach whales other than southern residents from as close as 200m. Even though this new regulation may have an impact on their business, several commercial whale-watching companies support the measures. As a matter of fact, they have agreed to refrain from selling tours to see the sought-after southern residents killer whales.
In addition to that, ships are no longer permitted in “interim sanctuary zones” off southwestern Vancouver Island and near two Gulf Islands. Ships are also asked to mind their speed when they’re within one kilometre of southern residents, and are asked to turn off echo sounders when not in use.
Protecting Chinook salmon, southern resident killer whales’ primary prey, is also part of the new measures announced by the Government of Canada. To support habitat protection and restoration of this fish species, the department is planning to introduce one million juvenile Chinook salmon at a British Columbia hatchery. That increase should result in 35,000 additional adults translating into a 35% increase of the total abundance of such fish in the Fraser River. Besides this major initiative, recreational and commercial harvesters are asked to temporarily suspend fishing activity of Chinook salmon when within one kilometre of a killer whale in parts of the Gulf islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Hussein Alidina, World Wildlife Fund Canada’s lead specialist for ocean conservation stated “[those] measures are a positive step for this year, but more long-term commitments are needed”. He added, "This, by itself, is not going to get us to recovery. We really need to sustain this kind of effort year after year."