IN 1973 THERE WERE 66 SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES IN BC. 

TODAY THERE ARE 74. 

Over the past few decades BC’s Southern Resident Killer Whale population has seen periods of both growth and decline.

From a recorded high of 98 whales, in 1995, their population has over the past twenty years declined to what might be called “below average.”

As outdoor enthusiasts, BC’s recreational sport fishing community cares deeply about our killer whales, our coastal communities, and our entire ecosystem. No one has a greater interest or serves a larger role in protecting, preserving, and enhancing BC’s marine life.

We all want to help them thrive.
But a misguided approach will do more harm than good.
To the killer whales, and to British Columbians.

THE FACTS 

SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES ARE NOT THE ONLY KILLER WHALES IN BC.

ANIMAL POPULATIONS NATURALLY GROW AND DECLINE OVER TIME.

ANIMAL POPULATIONS ARE INTERRELATED AND OFTEN COMPETE.

In addition to our Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) are the more numerous Northern Resident, Transient, and Offshore Killer Whales.

BC’s SKRW population has been both larger and smaller than it is today. From a recorded high of 98 in 1995, to a low of 66 in 1973. The factors influencing growth and decline are complicated and varied.

The preferred diet of SRKW is Chinook Salmon. They face stiff competition for this food source from Seals and Sea Lions, whose numbers have dramatically increased over recent decades.

PROBLEM SEALS ARE A PROBLEM.

Due to their protected status, the seal population has exploded since the1970’s. Without traditional hunting of seals and sea lions along BC’s coast, their numbers in the Georgia Strait/Salish Sea have swollen from an estimated 7,000in 1975 to over 70,000 today. Worse, this population pressure has pushed problem seals into sensitive rivers and estuaries, where it is estimated they consume nearly HALF of the salmon smolt that are trying to reach the sea to grow or return to the river to reproduce. Without a reduction in the number of these predators, our killer whales could soon run out of their primary food source.

PREDATOR CONTROL IS A SOLUTION.

BC’s Southern Resident Killer Whales, unlike their cousins the Transient Killer Whales, do not eat seals as part of their diet. Rather, seals are direct competition for the Chinook Salmon that comprise both of their diets. And the explosion in the seal population represents a direct threat to the long-term survival of the SRKW. Only effective, science-based control of the local seal population to bring it back in to balance with salmon survival rates will make a significant impact on the recovery of our killer whales.

PREDATORS TODAY CONSUME SIX TIMES MORE CHINOOK THAN BEFORE.

Marine scientists have determined a number of factors influencing the population of SRKW’s. The largest is the impact of problem seals on the whales’ available prey. But we also know that BC’s killer whales are among the most chemically contaminated marine mammals on the planet, accumulating high levels of toxins in their bodies. Clearly, we need a holistic approach to helping our whales that identifies and accounts for the most significant threats to them.

WE NEED A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO HELPING OUR WHALES

In 1975, predators including seals and sea lions consumed 5 million Chinook. Today, they eat more than 31 million Chinook every year. In the same timeframe, human harvesting of Chinook has decreased, from 3.6 million to 2.1 million.

BC’S COASTAL COMMUNITIES ARE BEING SCAPEGOATED.

BC's recreational sport fishing community is being unjustly blamed. In a cynical effort to push a political agenda targeting a broad range of local industries and communities, a well-funded media campaign is being waged against British Columbians who enjoy sport fishing and who depend on it for their livelihoods.

STOPPING SPORT FISHING WILL NOT AID KILLER WHALES BUT IT WOULD DEVASTATE BC FAMILIES AND BC’S COASTAL ECONOMY.

Sport fishing is one of the most iconic and traditional pastimes in BC – a part of our shared heritage that also attracts visitors from around the world and provides revenues to coastal communities at a minimal impact to resources. Thousands of BC families and businesses depend on sport fishing for their livelihoods, and our province depends on the more $1 billion that sport fishing contributes each year to BC’s economy.

STOPPING SPORT FISHING WOULD NOT ENHANCE THE CHINOOK SALMON POPULATION OR PROVIDE THE KILLER WHALES MORE FOOD.

Even so, recreational anglers catch such a small number of Chinook that their impact on SRKW prey acquisition is so low that it cannot be measured by marine scientists. Further, even huge reductions in catch over the past two decades have had NOT increased local salmon populations. If we want to rebuild salmon populations to provide prey for SRKW’s then we need to focus on the REAL issues, not political agendas.

STOPPING SPORT FISHING WOULD DEVASTATE BRITISH COLUMBIA’S COASTAL COMMUNITIES.

Thousands of British Columbian families rely on sport fishing for employment, income and food. Generations of British Columbians have enjoyed sport fishing as part of our shared heritage and have relied upon it to feed their families and bring them closer together.

STOPPING SPORT FISHING WOULD BE AN ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DISASTER.

While doing nothing meaningful or measurable for the whales, a closure of areas or Chinook fisheries in BC would wreak havoc on lives and communities along our coast and would devastate BC’s coastal economy. Hundreds of resorts, hotels, motels, restaurants, shops, marinas and other local businesses rely heavily upon sport fishing. Travel and tourism would suffer, and BC’s reputation as a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world would be given a black eye. More than 8,400 jobs in BC rely on sport fishing, providing goods and services to more than 400,000 anglers from every community, and from every walk of life.

SPORT FISHING IS A VITAL PART OF BC’S HISTORY, HERITAGE, AND ECONOMY.

BC is synonymous with salmon and sport fishing, and our waters are world-famous for their beauty and abundance. For generations, sport fishing has helped both residents and visitors more fully appreciate the natural wonders of our magnificent coast. BC’s sport fishing community has always played a strong role in conserving and protecting our environment, and always will. Sport fishing has become one of BC’s largest and most important industries, with benefits to all British Columbians that exceed even the more than $1 billion it contributes to our economy.

WE CAN HELP ENHANCE OUR KILLER WHALE AND CHINOOK POPULATIONS.

PROTECTING THEM FROM THE THREAT OF PROBLEM SEALS IS AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP.

We can also do more to help expand the population of BC’s salmon and killer whales by protecting and investing in critical spawning and rearing habitats along our coast, and by modernizing our hatcheries to focus on creating Chinook stocks in areas where it will help SRKW the most.

Please take the time to educate others about the true threats to our killer whales, like problem seals and “problem solutions.” Contact your local political representative today: Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  

min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca  or  Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca

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PROBLEM SEALS ARE DECIMATING THE CHINOOK SALMON POPULATION, THE NATURAL FOOD SOURCE OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES.

DUE TO A BAN ON THE TRADITIONAL HUNTING OF SEALS AND SEA LIONS IN OUR WATERS, POPULATIONS HAVE GROWN TEN-FOLD SINCE THE 1970's.

Today it is estimated that there are 70,000 of them in Georgia Strait, with groups that live and feed around rivers and estuaries consuming as much as 47% of juvenile salmon entering the ocean and ultimately competing for the same food as our killer whales.

ALMOST HALF OF ALL CHINOOK AND COHO SALMON SMOLTS LEAVING RIVERS IN GEORGIA STRAIT ARE EATEN BY SEALS.

Marine biologists have identified seals and sea lions as the #1 predators of Chinook and Coho Salmon in BC waters, consuming more Chinook than killer whales and commercial and recreational fisheries combined.

SPORT FISHING IS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR PASTIMES, AND LARGEST INDUSTRIES, ALONG THE ENTIRE WEST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA.

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR BC'S SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES, AND FOR SPORT FISHING IN BC.

KILLER WHALES EXIST IN NATURE... NOT A VACUUM

The recreational sport fishing community experiences killer whales in their natural habitat... not just on TV.  As outdoor enthusiasts, we have a deep appreciation of the ecosystem they inhabit, the other species in it, and the interactions among them all. As such we are keenly aware of the larger scope of factors that influence them.

WE NEED A SCIENCE-BASED APPROACH TO HELPING OUR WHALES.

Killer whales are magnificent animals that inspire awe. But to help them thrive we must rely on science... not emotions. Marine scientists have identified a number of environmental factors affecting their health, vitality, and population size. Among these are habitat loss, chemical contamination from sewage, microplastics and other toxins, marine noise from tour boats and larger vessels, and the relative abundance or scarcity of prey. But the largest factor, directly related to the availability of the whales’ food supply, is the existence of problem seal and sea lion populations.