Court orders protection for Canadian killer whales

Tue Dec 7, 2010 6:45pm EST
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian environmental officials have failed to give adequate habitat protection to killer whales that live along the country's Pacific Coast, a Federal Court judge ruled on Tuesday.

The court sided with environmental groups that argued the government had a duty to protect all aspects of the whales' habitat, some of which includes waters between British Columbia and Washington state.

The Canadian government erred when it determined in 2009 that critical habitat for the whales was already protected under the law, and was wrong to limit a protection order for the whales to only part of their habitat, the court ruled.

Environmental groups said the whales are threatened by a range of problems including a shortage of salmon food supplies, chemical pollution and acoustic disturbances from boats in the busy waterways.

"We're very pleased with the court's decision, which sends a strong message to (federal fisheries officials) to do a better job in the future," Susan Howatt, campaigns director for the Sierra Club of British Columbia said in a statement.

There are about 220 killer whales, or Orcas, living near the northern end of Vancouver Island, and are listed by the federal government as "threatened".