Killer Whales Struggle to Survive Canada’s Dangerous Waters: 73 remain

November 28, 2022
Canada’s shipping laws are clear-cutting the kelp forests, destroying kilometers of habitat for critically endangered species.
Orca breaching near Vancouver Island twitter sized
In the deep waters of the Salish and Great Bear Seas, a serious challenge is emerging as ship pollution, similar to underwater deforestation, is endangering kelp forests, leaving just 73 critically endangered southern resident killer whales in a shrinking habitat.

Ship pollution is clearcutting kelp forests, leaving only 73 southern resident killer whales

Crucial for a healthy ocean environment, kelp forests offer shelter and sustenance to critically endangered orcas, endangered sea otters, and at-risk fish species. Once expansive, these thriving forests used to span hundreds of kilometers, creating vibrant feeding areas. However, today, they have been replaced by marine dead zones stretching for kilometers.

The kelp forests are an ever-dwindling ecosystem for the remaining 73 critically endangered orca. This silent struggle is happening under the Salish and Great Bear Seas. The evidence is there, if you know where to look and with your help, we can spotlight a solution.

Environmental groups, communities, in addition to photographers are actively striving to help. They show the ongoing destruction of kelp forests, the decline of orcas, and the interconnectedness of a healthy ocean and coastal communities. On a global scale, these warnings often go unnoticed. Another key point is that the general public lacks an easy view beneath the water’s surface. Almost no one is paying attention to the happenings beneath the sea, but if this were occurring above the water, people worldwide would witness Canada essentially endorsing a form of underwater deforestation.

Why isn’t anyone stopping these ships?

Canada has no laws in place to stop them from dumping. Any ship can dump sewage directly into the ocean. This destroys more critical habitat and food sources for endangered orca and threatened species. Not just a “Canadian problem”, ships from far and wide can cross the Canadian maritime border simply to dump waste into the sea kelp forest (including raw sewage). Additionally, water doesn’t respect maritime borders and neither does pollution; global oceans need your help.

Shipping practices are today’s version of overhunting orca.

Of course, Canada’s legacy of destroying the kelp forests goes back hundreds of years, beginning with over-hunting sea otters for the fur trade, almost to the point of extinction. Sea otters were the caretakers of these forests, keeping the sea urchin population in check. Hovering around one percent of their original population, sea otters cannot keep up with the sea urchin explosion.

Therefore, the destruction continues today in new ways. Canada allows ships to dump waste directly into this fragile kelp forest ecosystem. Canada’s dumping laws are so famously lax, that Ships from far and wide save their waste until arriving at the border where they pour it directly into the ocean where it further degrades the kelp forest and compromises the habitat and food sources for endangered species. Even in the United States, dumping laws stop these kinds of practices.

To clarify, right now, there is nothing to stop any ship from crossing the Canadian maritime border simply to dump waste into the sea kelp forest. From orcas to plant life, nothing can escape this pollution and habitat destruction. 

Solutions on the horizon: *spoiler* you need to help

The community was founded to protect forests. Historically, we have won going up against banks, corporations, and governments and lobbyists to stand with people protecting their homes. We have gone head-to-head with a $75 billion corporation to secure permanent protections for critical caribou habitat. Over the years we’ve been proud to help protect millions of acres from logging in the Great Bear Rainforest, Northern boreal forest, and in Chile. Now we are fighting to protect kelp forests in the Great Bear and Salish Seas.

The good news is that you can protect kelp forests. The world can demand that Canada do its part for ocean health, and enact laws that protect this fragile ecosystem and the critically endangered species that rely on it.



Sign here to call on Canada's Minster of Transport to end ocean dumping and protect biodiversity now:

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