Aquaculture for all

BC killer whales under threat, report says

VANCOUVER - Killer whales are among the most fearsome predators on the planet, but on the West Coast they are fighting for survival in an increasingly noisy, polluted and salmon-poor ocean.

Saving the two distinct populations that live along British Columbia's coast - known as the northern and southern residents - will be difficult and could take more than 25 years, but it can be done, a report by a federally appointed killer-whale recovery team says.

In a new assessment, the 24-member team, which includes some of the world's top killer-whale experts, examines the threats and warns that, without action, all resident killer whales could eventually vanish from the Pacific Northwest.

The report, which this week went into public circulation for a 60-day comment period, identifies critical issues, including the need to protect core habitat and to preserve adequate stocks of chinook salmon, the prime food item.

"This is a key step," Christianne Wilhelmson, program co-ordinator for the Georgia Strait Alliance, said of the report's release. "Without this important part of the strategy, the future of the species would have truly been in doubt."

Ms. Wilhelmson, whose organization, together with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and Sierra Legal, was threatening to go to court to force the long-awaited document into the public domain, said she is thrilled the report defines critical habitat.

"Without protecting habitat you are not going to save killer whales," she said.

Alexandra Morton, a former killer-whale researcher who studies salmon on the B.C. coast, said Canada needs a plan to save the resident populations, or they will be lost.

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