Southern Residents and recovery

A rainbow is created by the exhalation of a killer whale breaking through the water.

Photo by Miles Ritter.

Reversing, or even slowing, our systemic unsustainable human footprint on a time scale relevant to dwindling wildlife populations is a challenge.

Raincoast’s approach to recovering Southern Resident killer whales stands on two primary tenets. First is to hold the line: to keep critical habitat in the Salish Sea from becoming further degraded. The second tenet is to reduce the immediate threats undermining their survival; lack of food, noise and disturbance from vessels, and pollutants that accumulate in their food.

Since 2008, Raincoast has been using science and the courts in our efforts to stop large commercial shipping expansion projects that significantly increase underwater noise, like Terminal 2 and Trans Mountain. Over the last three years, we have also used science, legal processes, and government engagement to implement measures that reduce noise and disturbance from vessels, and reduce the impact of fisheries on the Southern Resident’s dwindling salmon food supply.

By some measures, 2020 may have provided an improvement in killer whale health. Whether from the influence of sanctuaries, reduced fishing, whale watch restrictions, ship slow downs, or other marine conditions that affect Chinook, there are two young calves and pregnancies within the three pods. This is very welcome news. However, the test will be whether these calves and fetuses survive to become breeding adults. This has been the problem of the last decade or so. We sincerely hope 2020 signals a turning point in their recovery. In 2021, we will continue to champion recovery efforts for food security, along with noise and disturbance reductions, with our conservation partners in Canada and the US.

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