Five environmental groups take Trudeau government to court to protect endangered southern resident orcas

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      The legal group that acts for many Canadian environmental groups has filed papers in court to try to protect a magnificent B.C. marine species from going extinct.

      Ecojustice wants to push the Trudeau government to take more dramatic action to protect endangered southern resident orcas.

      There are only 75 of these creatures remaining in the Salish Sea.

      Ecojustice is acting on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Natural Resources Defence Council, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund.

      "For broader context, a decade ago (fall of 2008) we filed a similar lawsuit to protect Canada’s two populations of Resident killer whales (the Northern and Southern Residents)," Raincoast staffers Misty MacDuffee and Paul Paquet wrote on the group's website. "Our case then stated that government failed to specify biological (food), chemical (water & food quality), and acoustic qualities of critical habitat. The series of legal actions ended with a win (court of appeal and supreme court) for critical habitat protection.

      "Fast forward a decade. On May 24, 2018, the federal fisheries and environment ministers announced that the Southern Residents face 'imminent threats' to their survival and recovery," they continued. "Given this acknowledgement, the ministers are now legally required to recommend cabinet issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act, unless other legal measures are already in place."

      Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is the Liberal MP for North Vancouver.

      He has not responded to a call last month by Raincoast and the David Suzuki Foundation to close the chinook fisheries to leave more food in the Salish Sea for starving southern resident orcas.

      These animals require about 1,400 chinook each day to remain alive, according to these two groups.

      Under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, approximately two million chinook are captured by human beings each year in the waters off B.C. and Washington state.

      Meanwhile in a recent B.C. Court of Appeal decision, three judges unanimously sided with Raincoast, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and the Living Oceans Society's arguments that the National Energy Board failed to consider the Species at Risk Act in connection with marine transportation of diluted bitumen coming through the pipeline.

      As a result of this and Ottawa's failure to meet its legal duty to consult properly with First Nations, the federal cabinet's approval of the project was quashed.

      If the pipeline is ever completed, it will result in a nearly sevenfold increase in oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia.

      In 2014, the NEB acknowledged that "the operation of project-related marine vessels is likely to result in significant adverse effects to the southern resident killer whales".