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Thursday, August 09, 2007

SARA Transient Killer Whale & Sea Otter Recovery Strategies

Transient Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)
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The ‘West Coast transient’ population of killer whales (Orcinus orca) is acoustically, genetically and culturally distinct from other killer whale populations known to occupy waters off the west coast of British Columbia. This population was designated as ‘threatened’ by COSEWIC in 2001, and currently numbers approximately 250 animals. Transient killer whales are long-lived upper trophic level predators that are considered to be at risk because of their small population size, their very low reproductive rate (one calf every five years) and their extremely high levels of chemical contaminants that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Their high contaminant burdens, which have resulted from bioaccumulation in their prey, combined with other anthropogenic threats such as physical and acoustic disturbance, warrant their protection under the Species at Risk Act, and they are currently listed as Threatened.

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Consultation period: 2007-8-7 to 2007-10-6


Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

Sea otters ranged once from Northern Japan to central Baja California, but were hunted almost to extinction during the Maritime fur trade that began in the mid 1700s. As few as 2,000 animals, little more than 1% of the pre-fur trade population, are thought to have remained in 13 remnant populations by 1911. The last verified sea otter in Canada was shot near Kyuquot, British Columbia (BC), in 1929. Between 1969 and 1972, 89 sea otters from Amchitka and Prince William Sound, Alaska, were translocated to Checleset Bay on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Recent population surveys (2001 to 2004) indicate the Canadian sea otter population includes a minimum of 2,700 animals along the west coast of Vancouver Island and 500 animals on the central BC coast. Sea otters are legally listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) but have recently been reassessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Special Concern as they have re-populated 25-33% of their historic range and the population is growing and expanding. However, the population is still considered small (<3500) and their susceptibility to oil and the proximity to major oil tanker routes make them particularly vulnerable to oil spills (COSEWIC 2007).

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Consultation period: 2007-8-7 to 2007-10-6

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