CONTRIBUTION · 6th May 2014
When commercial whaling was finally banned in the 1960s, there were about 1500 Humpback Whales on BC’s coast. Humpbacks were placed on the Endangered Species List and over the past 40 years, their numbers have increased by about 50%. Hey that’s great! They’re not endangered anymore! Pop! They’re down listed. Now they’re just a Species of Concern. Except…
Except that only 50% of the original humpback population has returned. Since when is half way there the end of the journey?
Except that an endangered species habitat is totally protected and a Species of Concern’s habitat is not.
Except that the humpbacks in the Douglas Channel are about to experience an increase in shipping through their habitat from about 20 per month to about 100 per month and one of the greatest risks to these animals is ship strikes. For whatever reason, whales have not learned to avoid ships and they get hit on a regular basis. Propeller slashes are ugly.
Ships also make a lot of noise and whales are extremely sound sensitive. They communicate (sing) over miles under the water and shipping disrupts that. If females can’t find their calves, or individuals their pods, they will not thrive. They may not even survive.
Except that Humpbacks share their habitat with Fin Whales, Grey Whales and now, for the first time in 60 years, a Right Whale has been spotted on the north coast. And they are endangered and their habitat must be protected. The ships that will be in the Douglas Channel are four times the size of normal tankers. They cannot slow or they will lose steerage, so they will kill whales.
It is not a coincidence that taking Humpbacks off the endangered list makes life simpler for shippers of oil and gas. The richest feeding grounds are along the shortest tanker route. But failing to protect these places will make life very difficult indeed, if not downright impossible, for these amazing animals who cannot speak for themselves.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, sent out 312 consultation requests and received only 22 responses of which only 5 recommended the change. These numbers don’t add up even to a layperson.
Those who wish to exploit Canada’s resources need to learn how to do so with the least amount of collateral damage. Protect the whales. Protect the Douglas Channel. They are not expendable.
Elizabeth Thorne (Douglas Channel Watch)