Dear Honourable Gail Shea, Minister Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Re: Please Provide Needed Laws and Enforcement Funds for Endangered Orcas
While the US government has increased funding to their Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, your government has cutback crucial funding to stop boat harassment by Whale Watch Companies , and pleasure boaters.
The Lifeforce Foundation (email@example.com) has been campaigning for better laws and enforcement to protect the endangered orcas on Canada’s West Coast . Industry guidelines and self-policing have failed.
Lifeforce has investigated numerous boat harassment incidents and provided evidence to Canadian and US enforcement agencies. Our volunteer work has led to fines against whale watch companies and private boaters.
In addition to pollution and food depletion, boat harassment is a major threat facing endangered orcas. It is psychologically stressful and can physically injure them. Boat traffic can interrupt their communication, feeding, socializing and more.
“It is the responsibility of the US and Canadian governments to adequately fund enforcement agencies. Especially in the case of these endangered orcas. While organizations can educate and assist they are not able to provide enforcement,” stated Peter Hamilton, Lifeforce Founder,” Lifeforce has conducted boat monitoring since 1993 and continues to document the violations to support the need for increase enforcement. Some progress has been made but still a lot more needs to be done to help the orcas survive.”
In Canada and the US all vessels (including kayaks) must not block the pathways of orcas. In Canada, it is the law that they must also stay 100 yards away. However, in the US it must be 200 yards and 400 yards from approaching orcas.
The orcas are a transboundary, endangered species. These laws must be consistent in both countries. The upcoming new Marine Mammal Regulation must include these changes. In addition, 30 minute viewing time limits must be implemented.
Education materials, such as “Get Off My Tail” and “Be Whale Wise” about the laws, should be part of marina check ins so boaters are aware of the legal distances they must be from orcas. It would help reduce the number of boaters getting too close. It should also be provided by all Whale Watch Companies for their customers. The more eyes on the water the more orca protection.
Lifeforce advises those who take a Whale Watch boat trip to take video and photos of the violations by any company/pleasure boaters to help enforcement agencies. If operators are truly following the rules they should be supportive. In Canada Report Violations to Department of Fisheries and Oceans 1-800-465-4336. In US Report Violations to National Marine Fisheries Service 1-800-853-1964. (See http://www.bewhalewise.org/)
An option is land based whale watching at Saturna Island and other Victoria/Vancouver areas in Canada. In the US, Point Roberts, WA, and the San Juan Islands, WA. Are great places to see also orcas in the wild.
Please provide the needed laws and funding to government enforcement agencies to protect these endangered orcas.