Box 3117, Vancouver, B.C. V6B 3X6
Box 121, Pt. Roberts, WA 98281-0121
LIFEFORCE is a non-profit organization
November 12, l998
Re: Fast Ferries Threaten Resident Killer Whales
According to Lifeforce, a Vancouver based ecology organization, the Catamaran Ferries International’s (CFI) “fast ferries” will threaten an endangered population of orcas (killer whales) and other marine wildlife. Lifeforce requests to discuss how to avoid collisions were sent to Premier Glen Clark and CFI and Premier Clark responded by stating that the Corporation has concluded that the likelihood of such a mishap is minimal...”.
The Southern Community of orca has J Pod, K Pod and L Pod. In October 1996 these families had 98 members but as of July 1998 there has been a drastic decrease to 89. Since there were two newborns in 1998 there has been a loss of 11 orcas in less than two years. The Southern Community cannot survive any “minimal” loss. Decimation of fish stocks, pollution, climatic changes, aquarium captures and boat collisions are probable causes.
Under a Department of Fisheries and Oceans research permit Lifeforce studies the behaviour and travel patterns of orcas in Southern BC. The planned fast ferry routes transect frequently travelled routes of these orcas contrary to Premier Clark’s letter stating “sightings of these whales in central Georgia Strait is unusual...”
Orcas have been hit by boats. For example, there is a documented report of an orca who was struck by the BC ferry M/V Comox Queen’s propeller on December 26, 1973. The young orca suffered major injury to her dorsal fin and was kept from drowning by other orcas for at least 15 days. It is suspected that the orca was A21 who was last seen in 1973. In addition, a whale watch vessel collided with an orca this summer. The number of deaths due to boat collisions are undeterminable because any bodies are not recovered.
On the East Coast (Bay of Fundy) a fast ferry company is considering putting wildlife experts on board to protect a population of right whales that numbers approximately 300.
The BC government failed to respond to Lifeforce’s recommendations and to conduct an Environmental Impact Study in order to prevent injuries and deaths to these orcas and other marine wildlife. The study should include:
1. Assessment of risk to sea birds, sea lions, seal pups and cetaceans (whales and dolphins).
2. Mandating a training course on wildlife behaviour for ferry operators.
3. Implementing a communication network to alert ferries when wildlife are present. Underwater microphones deployed by the military should be utilized (especially on foggy days).
4. Providing funding for Lifeforce’s emergency Marine Wildlife Rescue Trailer.
5. Staffing ferries with wildlife observers.
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