Target: The Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment
Goal: Maintain the protected status of humpback whales
The Northern Pacific population of humpback whales have been protected as a threatened species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act since 2005. The Environment Minister is only now moving to change the humpback whales’ designation from “threatened” to “species of special concern,” which would remove general protections as well as the obligation to prevent the whales’ critical habitat from disturbance. This decision comes about three years after a 2011 report from the independent organization Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) indicated that the population had recovered sufficiently to be reclassified.
Many environmental organizations are concerned that this decision is too conveniently timed to be unrelated to the upcoming governmental decision on the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, which would send tankers straight through the whales’ critical habitat off the coast of British Columbia. Officials maintain that this decision is strictly based on continued growth in the whale population, but removing humpback whales’ threatened status would render them vulnerable to the pipeline traffic, which otherwise would not be permitted. Government motives notwithstanding, it makes no sense for the Canadian government to rescind the protections for the whales in time for the Northern Gateway pipeline to move oil tankers through; a move like this would put the whales in danger and likely undo all of the population gains made in recent years. The executive director of the environmental group Living Oceans Society, Karen Wristen, told CBC News that ships are one of the biggest dangers for whales due to potential collisions, oil spills, and the noise that ships produce (which would interfere with feeding and caring for young).
By signing this petition, you are urging the Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq not to remove humpback whales from the list of threatened species. You are calling on Minister Aglukkaq to recognize that removing the whales’ protections would render them vulnerable to hazards and noise that result from oil tankers passing through their critical habitat.
Dear Honorable Leona Aglukkaq,
I am highly disappointed by your recent announcement of your ministry’s intention to remove the threatened status of Northern Pacific humpback whales and reclassify them as a “species of special concern.” This decision could not come at a worse time for these whales; as you may know, environmental groups are concerned that this announcement anticipates the approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would send oil tankers through the whales’ critical habitat. Certainly the population has recovered tremendously over the last several years, but this pipeline could decimate all of that improvement by removing protections on their critical habitat. If the whales remain protected as a threatened species, they will not be subjected to the dangers associated with tanker traffic, including collisions resulting in injury and death, oil spills, and noise interference that interrupts feeding and taking care of young.
I am urging you to rescind your intention to remove humpback whales’ threatened status, and to continue to advocate for the whales’ protection. I am calling on you to recognize that the conservation and well-being of these important whales is more important than opening up an oil pipeline.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons