Orcas need protected area in Strait of Georgia, conservation group says

The provincial and federal governments must act soon to create a protected area off the B.C. coast for an endangered orca population, says a new report.

In 2003, an agreement was reached to study the feasibility of a proposed National Marine Conservation Area for the southern Strait of Georgia.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society released a review of Canadian parks today (July 9) that calls on both levels of government to push toward protecting the waters.

Based on a 2006 count, there were 87 orcas in the southern resident killer whale population.

While the Strait serves as habitat for the marine mammals, it is also heavily used by humans, according to the society.

Threats to the orcas include the loss of food sources, pollution, noise, and getting snared in fishing equipment, the society says.

“The long reproductive cycle of the killer whale, and their small population, also means that the loss of just one individual can have a devastating impact on the entire population,” reads the report.

But the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society also sees progress toward protecting marine habitat in B.C.

The society highlighted as a positive step the announcement in June of the 3,000-square-kilometre Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area.

Besides B.C.’s coastal waters, the report calls for creation of a protected area in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, home to an endangered population of American badgers estimated to total 45. The society expresses hope Parks Canada and the B.C. government will create a reserve to protect the ecosystem.

“Unfortunately, this is one of Canada’s most endangered ecosystems and it is under significant threat of development by wineries, retirement homes, ranchettes and golf courses,” reads the report.

In its third-annual review of parks, the society also argues for a stronger network of parks throughout Canada to protect wildlife and biodiversity. New, bigger parks should be created that are better connected and managed, the society says.