Ex­perts gather to brain­storm on south­ern res­i­dent whale re­cov­ery


VAN­COU­VER — When Lynne Barre feels dis­cour­aged about the re­cov­ery ef­fort of the south­ern res­i­dents killer whale pop­u­la­tion, she calls her col­league who does a school pro­gram about the or­cas to see if she can sit in on a class.

The chil­dren are well in­formed about the whales, said Barre, who is the re­cov­ery co-or­di­na­tor for south­ern res­i­dent killer whales with the U.S. National Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, or NOAA.

“They know what ex­tinc­tion means and they re­ally care. That’s re­ally in­spir­ing.”

The lat­est en­deav­our for the re­cov­ery ef­fort of the whales — listed as en­dan­gered in the United States and species at risk in Canada — comes this week to Van­cou­ver where sci­en­tists, in­dus­try, In­dige­nous groups, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and oth­ers meet Oct. 11-12 in a sym­po­sium look­ing for so­lu­tions.

The sym­po­sium is be­ing held as part of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Oceans Pro­tec­tion Plan that was an­nounced last Novem­ber.

The last cen­sus for south­ern res­i­dents com­pleted in July showed there were just 77 in the three pods that make up the pop­u­la­tion. Barre said that fig­ure could be even smaller be­cause a young male dis­ap­peared re­cently from J pod after he was spot­ted by a drone look­ing very skinny.

She said there are three key ar­eas to fo­cus on for the whale’s re­cov­ery: Their prey, chem­i­cal con­tam­i­nants and ves­sel dis­tur­bances.

South­ern res­i­dents and their north­ern res­i­dent cousins are unique be­cause their diet con­sists mainly of chi­nook salmon. The whales live long and their bod­ies store chem­i­cals such as DDT that has long been banned from use.

NOAA has been en­cour­ag­ing Canada to adopt sim­i­lar reg­u­la­tions as those in the U.S. that pro­tect the whales from ves­sel noise or strikes, Barre said.

Watch­ing the killer whales has spawned a lu­cra­tive tourism in­dus­try in the wa­ters off B.C. and Washington state.

The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment brought in reg­u­la­tions in 2011 stop­ping ves­sels from going within 200 yards, or 182 me­tres, from the whales. Ves­sels aren’t al­lowed to go in the path of the whales or try to in­ter­cept them.

“We’ve found that it has ben­e­fited the whales and it hasn’t had an eco­nomic im­pact on the whale­watch­ing in­dus­try,” Barre said.

Canada pro­posed sim­i­lar reg­u­la­tions five years ago, but they haven’t yet been passed. Un­der the cur­rent guide­lines, a per­son can still be charged for dis­turb­ing a whale, but the bur­den of proof for any al­le­ga­tions is on the Depart­ment of Fish­eries.

Barre said she be­lieves both coun­tries should align their reg­u­la­tions.

“I think it would help with pro­tec­tion of the whales, it would make ed­u­ca­tion mes­sages to boaters much sim­pler and I think we could im­prove com­pli­ance with trans-boundry reg­u­la­tions that were sim­i­lar.”

Noise from ships, es­pe­cially the smaller, fast-mov­ing ves­sels, seems to in­ter­fere with the whales echolo­ca­tion which helps them hunt and nav­i­gate, she said.

“These are acoustic an­i­mals and they use sound to find their food.” RE­DIS­COVER THE JOY OF SOUND

No one from the Trans­port Canada or the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans was avail­able to com­ment on the reg­u­la­tory changes.

The Van­cou­ver Port Author­ity launched a ves­sel slow­down trial over the sum­mer in at the south end of Van­cou­ver Is­land in the Haro Straight — the sum­mer feed­ing ground for south­ern res­i­dents. The goal was to bet­ter un­der­stand the re­la­tion­ship be­tween ves­sel speed, un­der­wa­ter noise and their ef­fects on killer whales.

Un­der­wa­ter mi­cro­phones were set up and ships were asked to cut their speed.

Barre said she’ll be in­ter­ested to learn about the find­ings of the study.

While ex­perts have been study­ing these whales for decades, she said there are still some gaps in knowl­edge.

She said suc­tion cups with acoustic tags at­tached to the whales have led re­searchers to de­ter­mine that the noise from boats and other sounds are af­fect­ing their for­ag­ing be­hav­iour. Drones have also been used to fly over and as­sess the health of the whales.

The pop­u­la­tion of the pods has hov­ered around 80 an­i­mals over the last few decades, but Barre re­mains is op­ti­mistic for the whales’ re­cov­ery.

HAL­I­FAX — African-Nova Sco­tian or­ga­niz­ers say it’s time for a cen­turies-over­due dis­cus­sion about Canada’s legacy of slav­ery, its last­ing harms on black Cana­di­ans and po­ten­tial forms of repa­ra­tion.

“Canada is lag­ging be­hind (many coun­tries) on the repa­ra­tions is­sue be­cause we haven’t had enough sup­port from the gov­ern­ment,” says Lynn Jones, who chairs the Nova Sco­tia chap­ter of the Global Afrikan Con­gress. “We’re hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions around the prov­ince ... and if the gov­ern­ment were in tune, the gov­ern­ment would be do­ing this.”

In the ab­sence of a clear national com­mit­ment to ad­dress Canada’s role in the transat­lantic slave trade, Jones says she was en­cour­aged by a re­cent UN re­port rec­om­mend­ing that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment apol­o­gize for slav­ery and con­sider is­su­ing repa­ra­tions.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for fed­eral Her­itage Min­is­ter Me­lanie Joly, who is re­spon­si­ble for the mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism port­fo­lio, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Isaac Saney, a his­to­rian who teaches black stud­ies at Dal­housie Univer­sity, says any mean­ing­ful di­a­logue about repa­ra­tions must be­gin with an ac­knowl­edg­ment of what he calls the “original sin” of anti-black racism in Canada — the en­slave­ment of thou­sands of peo­ple of African de­scent be­tween the 16th and 19th cen­turies.

“Slav­ery is the dead hand that has shaped a so­ci­ety,” says Saney. “Slav­ery no longer ex­ists, but the pro­cesses ... (that) put it into mo­tion have con­tin­ued in one form or an­other into the present.”

Slav­ery was abol­ished in the Bri­tish colonies in the 1830s, but Saney says its legacy set the stage for later in­jus­tices against black Cana­di­ans — such as seg­re­ga­tion, anti-black im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies and present-day so­cial in­equities — by es­tab­lish­ing a prece­dent for treat­ing peo­ple of African de­scent as “non-cit­i­zens.”

This legacy has par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance for African-Nova Sco­tians, a “sig­nif­i­cant” por­tion of whom can trace their lin­eage back to slaves, Saney says.

Jones, who has lent her voice to repa­ra­tions ef­forts around the world, sees Nova Sco­tia’s his­tory as all the more rea­son why the prov­ince should lead the Cana­dian charge for slav­ery repa­ra­tions.

She says her group has met with African-Nova Sco­tian Af­fairs Min­is­ter Tony Ince to make their case, but she feels the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has yet to se­ri­ously en­gage on the is­sue.

Ince could not be reached for com­ment, but told the CBC in an e-mail that these are com­plex is­sues that need to be dis­cussed at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

While gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials drag their feet, Jones says, she has been work­ing with other or­ga­niz­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers to brain­storm ideas for what repa­ra­tions could look like in a Cana­dian con­text.

“At the cen­tre, there needs to be an apol­ogy, be­cause ev­ery­thing kind of leads from that,” she says.

Jones says the resid­ual ef­fects of slav­ery on African-Cana­di­ans have been far-reach­ing, and the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to re­dress­ing these harms should be just as com­pre­hen­sive.

She says repa­ra­tions should in­clude gov­ern­ment ef­forts to sup­port African-Cana­di­ans such as ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, eco­nomic devel­op­ment, fund­ing com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives, hous­ing sub­si­dies and crim­i­nal jus­tice re­forms.

Com­pen­sa­tion for peo­ple of African de­scent should be an­other form of repa­ra­tions, says Jones, but she be­lieves the amount should be de­ter­mined on an on­go­ing ba­sis.

“Money is one small as­pect of the whole pic­ture,” Jones says. “How do you put a dol­lar on ev­ery sin­gle part of some­body’s life?”


Two south­ern res­i­dent killer whales are seen in this un­dated hand­out photo. The lat­est en­deav­our for the re­cov­ery ef­fort of the whales, listed as en­dan­gered in the United States and species at risk in Canada, comes this week to Van­cou­ver where sci­en­tists, in­dus­try, In­dige­nous groups, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and oth­ers meet Oct. 11-12 in a sym­po­sium look­ing for so­lu­tions.

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