Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Government Announces New Measures for Killer Whale Protection

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Government Announces New Measures for Killer Whale Protection

Article excerpt

New measures announced for killer whales

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VANCOUVER - The federal government wants to create new ocean sanctuaries in British Columbia as part of an additional $61.5 million it is spending to protect endangered killer whales.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Wednesday the government also wants to create new areas of critical habitat off the west coast of Vancouver Island for southern resident killer whales.

The protected areas of Swiftsure in the Juan de Fuca Strait between Vancouver Island and Washington state, and La Perouse Bank off Tofino will be areas that the whales can call home, he said.

"We are in the process of consulting on those new critical habitat areas and expect to be able to move forward on them in the next couple of months," he said. "We are also talking about creation of killer whale sanctuaries, which essentially are within the areas of critical habitat ... which means that we can prohibit a range of different activities, not simply fisheries, where you can regulate that ships cannot go."

The government previously announced $167.4 million would be spent to improve prey availability and reduce disturbances for whales.

Southern resident killer whales were listed as endangered in 2003 and only 74 of them remain in the wild.

Wilkinson said the government will take a closer look at enhancing food sources for whales by putting money into a new hatchery to increase the stock of chinook salmon.

While there have been calls for a ban on chinook salmon fishing, he said the government "hasn't gone there yet."

"We'll certainly be looking at the needs of the southern resident killer whales and trying to ensure balancing economic issues with environmental issues," he said.

Earlier this year, the federal government closed about 35 per cent of recreational and commercial chinook fisheries in the Juan de Fuca Strait and around portions of the Gulf Islands. …

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