Advance View: Whales make way for supertankers

North Pacific humpbacks whales are no longer members of a threatened species… according to the federal government, which last weekend announced that the Species at Risk Act would be amended to reclassify the whales as a “species of special concern.”

The new title means the whales’ feeding ground will no longer be subject to habitat protection laws – good news for whale watchers, especially those who are watching from oil tankers.

The whales’ habitat happens to be right on the shipping lane slated for bitumen-loaded tankers bound for China,  should the same federal government decide to approve the Northern Gateway Pipeline next month.

It seems coincidental. Pro-environment lobbyists had already made it clear that one of their strategies to limit, stall, or perhaps even stop the pipeline proposal was to meet any federal approval with legal action based on the whales’ endangered status… under the Species at Risk Act.

Oops. That’s one avenue closed to those pesky environmentalists.

On the other hand, it does remove a hazard from those treacherous coastal waters… for those who plan to launch the bitumen carriers, if not for the tankers themselves.

It seems, in their slashing of scientists’ jobs from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Tories had the foresight to keep at least a few around who are of the opinion that whales can probably learn to dodge tankers.

It is more of a systemic dismantling of environmental regulations and protection that might pose stumbling blocks for future pipeline projects. We saw the same thing with the elimination of environmental assessments for bodies of water that don’t contain commercial or recreational fisheries.

You can’t be accused of breaking any rules if there aren’t any rules to break.

We’d like to toast the whales’ bright future after their return from the brink of extinction due to a century of commercial whaling.

But their recovery is actually only words on paper.

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