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Resident killer whale lawsuit

Dec 14, 2012 10:35 AM

Status: Victory

B.C.'s killer whales and all of Canada's endangered marine species now have protected places to eat, sleep and play in peace, thanks to a landmark decision we won in Federal Court this year.

Resident killer whale lawsuit

killer whale pod

B.C.'s killer whales and all of Canada's endangered marine species now have protected places to eat, sleep and play in peace, thanks to a landmark decision we won in Federal Court this year.

The win was upheld by a Federal Court of Appeal decision issued in February 2012, after the government tried to overturn the original ruling.

Our long-running battle for stronger protection of the killer whales, one of Canada’s most iconic species, saw us sue Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) for failing to legally protect all aspects of the whales’ critical habitat.

The court ruled strongly in our favour — a win that confirmed the government’s responsibility to protect everything that makes habitat healthy for whales, from pollution-free water to plentiful amounts of the salmon they need for food.

However, the government is now appealing aspects of our winning decision that could spell trouble for other marine species.

We argued that when the Species At Risk Act was passed the government intended that critical habitat of species would be protected by law — not by government discretion. Yet discretionary provisions are what DFO has argued it should be allowed to rely on.

Government’s decisions should be based on law, not the discretion of individual departments and bureaucrats, and relying on discretionary provisions to protect critical habitat threatens to undermine the habitat needs for all marine species.

We’re preparing to continue the fight to ensure that the 90 other marine species listed under the federal Act receive the same protection we won for BC’s killer whales.

Ecojustice represented a coalition of nine conservation groups in this case.

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