VANCOUVER – Dyna Tuytel, an Ecojustice lawyer, issued the following statement in response to the federal government’s Oct. 31 announcement on protections for Southern Resident killer whales:

“Southern Resident killer whales are in crisis. They need emergency protections under the Species at Risk Act before they return to their critical habitat in the Salish Sea next spring.

For nearly a year, Ecojustice and its clients have consistently called for the government to issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to protect the Southern Residents. In September, the groups launched a lawsuit asking the Federal Court to force the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to recommend Cabinet use this tool to protect the whales.

Today’s announcement from the federal government signals that it is still not taking threats to the Southern Residents seriously enough — despite the fact that the ministers themselves acknowledged last May that these whales face “imminent” threats to their survival and recovery. Instead of recommending an emergency order, the ministers continue to make vague promises that do not offer the same immediate and enforceable protections an emergency order would.

Ecojustice and its partners are committed to continuing their legal fight to secure emergency protections for the Southern Residents, and expect a hearing date in 2019.”