DFO and Partners Lay out Action Plan to Protect Killer Whale

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
January 30, 2002
Courtesy of /CCN/

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--Fisheries and Oceans Canada has brought together an expert team of marine mammal scientists from the Vancouver Aquarium and the Center for Whale Research based out of Washington State to develop an action plan to protect a juvenile killer whale (orca) separated from its pod earlier last summer.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine mammal scientists have confirmed sightings of a lone, juvenile killer whale in a remote inlet off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Department staff, with the assistance of the Centre of Whale Research in Friday Harbour, Washington, U.S.A., have identified the whale as L98, a two and a half-year old juvenile, male from L pod, one of three southern resident killer whale pods.

The southern resident killer whale population has been steadily declining in recent years - 99 whales in 1996 to 78 whales in 2001 - and L pod has been particularly affected by this decline. The southern resident killer whale population, often found in the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, was recently listed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Action Plan Highlights

* DFO research staff, the Center for Whale Research, and the Vancouver Aquarium will monitor the status of the whale on a regular basis and determine future steps.

* DFO will enhance conservation and protection patrols as required to ensure the whale is not disturbed.

* DFO will provide information to the public on appropriate marine mammal viewing protocols.

* DFO staff have already begun monitoring the juvenile. L98 appears to be in good health and scientific observers report that he has been hunting and feeding adequately. Experts agree that the whale is unlikely to be reconnected with L pod because this group has never been recorded at or near this location since studies began over 25 years ago.

"Fisheries and Oceans Canada takes protection of marine mammals very seriously," said Paul Macgillivray, Regional Director of Fisheries Management. "We are committed to the protection of this species and are developing a management strategy to address the long-term health of marine mammals on the Pacific coast."

"This is a very rare event and our action plan will be key to ensuring the health and well-being of this young whale," said Dr. John Ford, Head of the Marine Mammal Group at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. "The Vancouver Aquarium has over 30 years of experience with killer whales, and is pleased to assist in the effort to reunite this whale with its pod," said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, Marine Mammal Scientist at the Aquarium. "In this case, a combined effort is particularly important as the whale in question belongs to a critically affected population."

"Every individual whale is important to the population. We are optimistic that this whale will survive and will be reunited with its family," said Ken Balcomb, Director of The Center for Whale Research in Washington State.





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