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From Wildlife Extra:
Canada’s downgrading of humpback whales puts them at risk
Increasing numbers of humpback whales (North Pacific population) has led the Canadian Government to change their conservation status from endangered to species of special concern it was announced in the Canadian Gazette.
This move follows the 2011 conclusion by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) that there had been no evidence of a population decline of humpbacks since the 1960s, which is around the time that commercial whaling ended. They also found that the population has been increasing at about four per cent per year since the early 1990s (when records began), and that they have increased by more than 50 per cent over the last three generations.
But this is a controversial move as environmentalists are concerned that the downgrading could damage the humpback whale’s future, because there would be no longer the requirement for critical habitat to be designated and protected. They are particularly worried as the decision potentially removes one of the hurdles in the way of approval for the Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
The decision, “has absolutely no basis in science and is simply a political move to clear the way to approve the [Enbridge] pipeline,”said Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, to CBC News. She said that this area is where the humpback whales feed and rear their young in the spring and summer. If the pipeline goes ahead, those areas are expected to be a major corridor for oil tanker traffic.
“Ships were one of the specific things that were mentioned by scientists as being a very high hazard to the whales for their recovery. The danger is of course that the ships will strike them physically and kill them. Without the habitat, they can’t be expected to thrive,” she said.
“Their [humpback whales] recovery isn’t complete and we still need to be working to protect them the best way we can,” said Linda Nowlan, regional director, B.C. and Pacific, for the World Wildlife Fund Canada to Reuters News Agency. “It’s kind of ironic that the best form of protection is being removed at a time when the threats are increasing.”