The federal budget includes $167 million over five years that will go towards the “research and preservation” of endangered whale species, including southern resident orcas, as well as North Atlantic right whales and belugas in the St. Lawrence estuary.

On the B.C. South Coast and in Puget Sound where the southern residents call home, researchers are cautiously happy to see funding for orcas.

“It?s always good to have money for research you know because we need to know more but the problem is we already know enough to take serious actions that will benefit the whales and what I?ve been waiting for for years are these actions,” said Dr. Paul Spong, co-director of OrcaLab.

Budget documents acknowledge that a “complex mix of threats?such as the availability of prey, increased noise levels from passing ships and pollution in the water are endangering many whale populations.”

Spong says some problems can be addressed immediately without further study.

“We know that when vessels encroach on boaters that are actively pursuing fish that the encroachment restricts their ability to catch fish, so let?s put into place a regulation that says boats have to keep further away and make less noise and let?s enforce that. Enforcement costs money so let?s put money into it,” said Spong.

The money will be used by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada for research to help better understand the factors affecting the health of these whales as well as actions that can be taken now to help address threats arising from human activities.

Dean Stoltz