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Orca protection not sufficient, says Canadian federal court

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Orca populations around Vancouver Island won a decisive victory in Canadian Federal Court this week, as Judge James Russell ruled that the Canadian government cannot rely on voluntary protocols and guidelines to protect orca critical habitat.  The judge brought acoustics into his decision by stressing  that critical habitat protections must include ecosystem features, including prey availability and and noise impacts.

The decision, which is detailed in this article from the Vancouver Sun, could push the Canadian government toward some difficult decisions, especially regarding salmon harvests.  Declining salmon runs are a key factor in orca declines, and there is a push to limit fishing to assure that orcas (and other wildlife) have more access to this key prey species.  In addition, research continues to suggest that shipping noise may interfere with orca communication and foraging (recent AEI post); there’s no telling how this conflict might be resolved.

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