Canada’s Harper government has moved North Pacific humpback whales from the “threatened” list to a “species of special concern,” a change that reduces protections for the marine mammals and could facilitate the approval of a tar sands pipeline.
According to a document posted Saturday in the Canada Gazette, the Minister of the Environment’s recommendation for the reclassification for the whales under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) follows a 2011 assessment from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) — “an independent group of expert scientists”— that “the species’ situation has improved tremendously over the last five decades.”
Others cast doubt on the science behind the reclassification.
Following the 2011 assessment, the federal government put out 312 notices for consultations regarding the potential of downgrading the whales’ status. It got back 22 responses, just five of which were in favor of the changed SARA status.
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Of those responses opposed to the status change, the document states:
The CBC reported:
On the status change impacts to Enbridge’s pipeline, the Vancouver Sun adds:
In a January press release from Ecojustice, the group cited a federal government recovery strategy for the whales that identified toxic spills and increased vessel traffic from the Northern Gateway project as threats to humpacks’ recovery. Yet the strategy was issued over four years late, meaning that information was not considered by the federal Joint Review Panel (JRP), which ultimately recommended the project’s go-ahead.
Residents of Kitimat, which would be the terminus for the Northern Gateway pipeline and home to supertankers, have warned that the projet would bring certain death to whales and Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, previously told Common Dreams that a plebiscite vote in the small town rejecting Enbridge’s pipeline showed that residents were aware of the threats posed by the pipeline to the province’s coast, including “increased tanker traffic and vessel noise through sensitive and productive waters, impoverishing critical habitat for numerous species of threatened and endangered whales.”