by Caitlin Birdsall

Did you know that YOU can have your say when it comes to Species at Risk planning and management in Canada?  Each time a recovery, action or management plan is created for a species listed as endangered, threatened or special concern under SARA (Species at Risk Act), the plans are open to public consultation for 60 days, enabling Canadian citizens to comment.   That means that anyone can provide input into the well-being of our wildlife species, and now is the perfect time to do so!  Two new Management Plans were released this month and are open to public comment for two B.C. cetaceans -the harbour porpoise and the offshore killer whale.

Management plans are created for species listed as Special Concern as a way to set goals and objectives to maintain a sustainable population of these potentially vulnerable species.  Special Concern is a designation defined as “a species that could become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.”   Management Plans are action oriented and include a variety of conservation and habitat protection activities that strive to keep sensitive species from becoming threatened or endangered, and ultimately, removed from the list of animals considered ‘at risk’.

Harbour porpoises, BC’s smallest cetacean, appear to be very sensitive to human activity around their preferred shallow water, coastal habitats.   Furthermore, potential entanglement in fishing gear, underwater noise and contamination could have drastic effects on their population in British Columbia.  The goal of the Harbour Porpoise Management Plan is to maintain a self-sustaining population within their known range, and for the range itself to be maintained.  It also outlines goals and action for management and research to best understand and protect this elusive animal before populations decline more severely.  You can read and comment on the Management Plan for harbour porpoise here.  Comments are accepted until October 24th, 2009.

Offshore killer whales are currently listed as Special Concern, but were recently recommended by COSEWIC (Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada) to be up-listed to Threatened (read about why this designation has changed here).   With small population numbers, and slow reproduction, offshore killer whales, like residents and transients, are intrinsically vulnerable to human created threats.  Reductions in food supply and chemical contamination from persistent pollutants top the list of threats to these animals.   With the objective of maintaining a stable population and range, the Management Plan outlines action, research and stewardship goals.  Read and comment on the proposed Offshore Killer Whale Management Plan here.  Comments are accepted until November 9, 2009.

Both harbour porpoise and offshore killer whales are difficult animals to study, and much more research is needed for both species (you can help scientists understand more about them by reporting your cetacean sightings here).  Management Plans are a proactive way to outline clear goals and actions that will enable better protection and understanding of these animals.  Within 30 days of the end of the comment period these plans will be finalized, so have your say while you can!

Jackie Hildering

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