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Critical habitat orders a good step, but don't include right whale range shift

ST. JOHN'S & TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- World Wildlife Fund Canada is pleased to see the government of Canada use critical habitat orders ? one of the tools at its disposal in the Species at Risk Act ? to protect vulnerable wildlife. These critical habitat orders are an important step in protecting at-risk species, but as the climate rapidly changes and species' ranges shift, more must be done more quickly to identify and protect critical habitats in order to achieve meaningful results.

Sigrid Kuehnemund, WWF-Canada's vice-president of oceans conservation, says:

"The issue is complex and the government is trying hard to get it right, but trying hard isn't enough. As climate change warms the ocean and alters the ecosystem and behaviors of those living in it, we can't wait years for action. Because of changing ocean and prey conditions, North Atlantic right whales are now more likely to be found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence than in the areas addressed in this critical habitat order. This past summer 16 right whales died, with ship strikes and entanglements in the Gulf of St. Lawrence largely to blame. We must quickly identify the key areas in the gulf where we're seeing deaths and act to protect those areas if we want to save this species.

"St. Lawrence belugas faces a lengthy list of threats, and only some ? such as ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear ? will be addressed by the new critical habitat order. Others are still in urgent need of attention, beginning with reducing contaminants in beluga habitat, regular monitoring of this population and ensuring adequate and accessible supplies of food. Belugas won't survive if they are starving and their food supply has been significantly reduced due to overfishing, habitat degradation, barriers to fish migration, climate change, increased competition from other predators such as seals and marine birds, as well as increased competition with commercial fisheries."

James Snider, WWF-Canada's vice-president of science, research and innovation, says:

"The North Atlantic right whale critical habitat shift is a clear example that effective recovery strategies and action plans require a deeper understanding of climate change impacts ? both now and in future. The Species at Risk Act is capable of addressing the real-time needs of species that need protection the most. But at the end of the day, it's up to the people enacting it to use it to its fullest potential."

For more on the state of wildlife, Living Planet Report Canada: A National Look at Wildlife Loss.


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/a990807c-c45b-4e55-9930-dd303a5d666c

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