Killer whales and Canada's Species at Risk Act
Defined under SARA, ‘critical habitat’ is the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species
Canada's Species at Risk Act (SARA) came fully into legal force on June 1, 2004. SARA lists the Southern Residents as an endangered species and the Northern Residents as a threatened species.
The Final Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales was released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on March 14, 2008. It identified and mapped some areas that are critical habitat for resident killer whales, and suggested other areas that, with further research, may also be identified as critical habitat
The critical habitat of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population (see map below) includes the waters around the San Juan and Gulf Islands, and up Georgia Strait about mid-way up Vancouver Island. The occurrence of Southern Residents in this area is strongly correlated with the timing of salmon migration through these waters. Within this area, locations that are particularly important for foraging are the near shore waters along the west and southwest sides of San Juan Island, the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Swanson Channel off North Pender Island, and off the mouth of the Fraser River.
The critical habitat of the Northern Resident Killer Whale population includes the waters of Johnstone Strait and south-eastern Queen Charlotte Strait, and the channels connecting these straits. Ninety percent of Northern Resident Killer Whales in Johnstone Strait visit the rubbing beaches in Robson Bight. During this time they are very sensitive to disturbance.
For more information on the legal battle to protect Canada's endangered killer whales, follow the links below.