Southern resident killer whales becomes focus of fisheries minister visit

Southern resident killer whales becomes focus of fisheries minister visit

WATCH: Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson had a busy day in Victoria Friday, unveiling a building at Royal Roads and new oil response equipment added to the Coast Guard. But all the talk was about the endangered southern resident killer whales. Kori Sidaway has more.

As the iconic and endangered southern resident orcas continue their decline with the world watching, they’ve now become front and centre in national politics.

“This government is completely committed to the recovery of whales,” said Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

But environmentalists say what’s currently being done is not enough. Multiple environmental groups banded together in a lawsuit this week against the government, demanding further action.

“We’ve seen this population not produce a calf in three years, 69 per cent of pregnancies are failing, things are really coming to a head for this population and need emergency action,” said lawyer Dyna Tuytel who represents the Raincoast Foundation, who are part of this lawsuit.

When asked today if there should be emergency action to save the resident orcas, Wilkinson somewhat deflected.

“We need sustained action for sure, to save the southern resident killer whales, there’s only 75 left, it’s an iconic species that requires urgent action,” said Wilkinson.

The government deemed the southern residents a species at risk in 2003. Since then, environmentalists say there’s been a pattern of delay.

And now, communication between the government and environmental groups seems to be breaking down.

“I’m disappointed that the environmental groups didn’t continue to participate in the collaborative process that was aimed at getting to the outcomes they desire and we desire,” said Wilkinson.

But lawyers who represent the environmental groups say the story may be a bit different.

“My clients are interested in having any conversations that are constructive. It’s possible the government may not see a role for that considering new litigation Raincoast and others have filed,” said Tuytel.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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