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The Orca Playground: To Watch or not to Watch

Personal work on a project has made the issue of better regulation of marine tour operations (and all marine boaters) an issue dearer to my heart:

Whale watching is a pretty big deal along the southern coast of BC, including Victoria and Vancouver (and into Washington). Outfits garner a lot of attention from tourists, bring considerable revenue to the area, and educate people about marine wildlife. However, orcas, and particularly the southern residents prevalent in local waters, are endangered. Food stocks and contaminated marine waters are the two biggest threats to orcas, one of BC’s favourite icons. Noise disturbance is also a very significant threat. Our waters and the animals that occupy them are exposed to constant boat traffic. The long-term effects of these disturbances on whales are unknown. A recent court decision found that Canada has failed under its own law to designate critical habitat for killer whales. In the meantime the critical habitat is consistently invaded by creatures it is not so critical to (like us); some of these creatures do not know how to minimize their impact.

These facts justify a precautionary approach to the protection of orcas. The precautionary principle requires that people and governments take action to prevent reaching a point of no return. Scientists have already identified these threats to orcas; strong measures must be taken to prevent further damage while we continue to learn. These precautionary measures can and should include substantial changes to the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations…

-Report: Recommendations to Reform the Laws Protecting Orca from Boat Traffic, p. 5.

Please see this recent article in the Vancouver Sun. (If it makes it any more enticing, yours truly had a hand in this story.) If you’re really keen you can see the full report on which the article is based. To hear two perspectives on this  issue, listen to the podcast of a recent debate.


January 4, 2011 Posted by | Law, News, Wild Animals | , | 2 Comments