Commissioner hopes Ottawa’s save-the-whales effort is not too late

Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand says killer whale population hanging on by a thread

Canada’s environmental watchdog says the federal government waited to take specific action to protect some of its most at-risk whales until the mythical creatures were already on the verge of going extinct.

Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand says Canada had the tools to safeguard North Atlantic right whales, Southern resident killer whales and other marine mammals from being hit by ships, tangled in fishing gear or losing their food sources — but it waited until after 12 right whales died in a single summer and the killer whale population was hanging on by a thread.

RELATED: Conservation groups sue Ottawa to protect endangered killer whales

Gelfand’s latest audit comes just as Ottawa is trying to prove to the courts it is doing enough to protect the Southern resident killer whale in particular from risks, so it can go forward with a plan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline.

As for the killer whale — listed as endangered since 2003 — Fisheries and Oceans Canada didn’t do anything specific to help the whales’ main food source, Chinook salmon, until this past July.

There are only 75 Southern resident killer whales left and not a single calf has survived since 2016 as toxins in the water, lack of food, and noise and physical disturbances from ships put the species’ welfare in great doubt.

RELATED: Orcas challenging but not preventing pipeline expansion approval, says minister

The orcas are one of 14 whale species listed as endangered or threatened in Canada, and Gelfand says Fisheries couldn’t give details on what it had done to protect 11 of them.

The Canadian Press

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