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VANCOUVER - Eight conservation organizations working to protect marine wildlife on Canada's Pacific coast are urging the Canadian Navy to exclude military training exercises from the critical habitat of southern resident killer whales. This population of killer whales is listed as endangered under Canada's Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the legal obligation to protect their critical habitat was recently reinforced by the courts.

The letter, sent to Defense Minister Peter Mackay, follows concerns that include a recent training exercise in early February 2012 aboard the Canadian Naval frigate HMSC Ottawa and its use of mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar in waters south of Victoria, British Columbia. Killer whales were known to be in the area just following, and likely during, the exercise.

On February 11, 2012, a 3-year old female southern resident killer whale (L112) washed ashore near Long Beach on the outer Washington coast. As the cause of death is still under investigation there is an urgent need for information on all activities, military and otherwise, that might have contributed to her death. The loss of a young female represents a major reproductive impact to this population. This incident, along with others, underscores the need for stronger actions within the critical habitat of southern residents and the broader Salish Sea region, where sound propagation conditions are heightened.

The David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Greenpeace Canada, Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sierra Club of B.C., Western Canada Wilderness Committee and World Wildlife Fund are requesting that the Canadian Navy disclose information surrounding all military activities conducted in February 2012, including information about the use of sonar, explosives, or other active acoustic systems. The groups further urge the Navy to immediately recognize the designated critical habitat and the broader waters of the Salish Sea, by establishing an exclusion zone where training with MFA sonar, other high-intensity active acoustics, and explosives is prohibited.

The groups urge the Canadian Navy to work with the United States Navy to strengthen their mutual stewardship of the region's marine wildlife. Southern resident killer whales are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

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Letter to Minister Mackay

For more information, please contact:

Jay Ritchlin, Director, Western Region, David Suzuki Foundation, (604)961-6840 (cell)

Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director, Georgia Strait Alliance, (604)633-0530, (604)862-7579 (cell)

Sarah King, Oceans Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Canada,(604)253-7701 ext 17

Mary Lindsay, Interim Executive Director, Living Oceans Society, (604)992-0236

Misty MacDuffee, Program Director and Biologist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation,(250)818-2136 (cell)

Colin R. Campbell, Marine Campaign Coordinator, Sierra Club B.C., (250)386-5255 ext 236

Gwen Barlee, Policy Director, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, (604)202-0322

Linda Nowlan, Director, Pacific conservation, World Wildlife Fund, (604)678-5152

Hussein Alidina, Senior Science Officer, World Wildlife Fund, (604)678-5152

March 21, 2012