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Court: Canada must protect killer whales

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not done enough to protect critical killer whale habitat off the coast of British Columbia, a court has ruled.

A federal court said Tuesday the federal government failed to protect at-risk resident whales by inadequately dealing with issues of salmon availability, environmental contamination and noise pollution from marine traffic, The Vancouver Sun reported.

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Environmentalists launched a lawsuit in 2008 after the DFO used provincial guidelines to outline a protection strategy, which environmentalists argued did not address key issues such as food supply or pollution.

Justice James Russell ruled the DFO must comply with federal laws as outlined in the Species At Risk Act, rather than using provincial policies or guidelines, which he concluded do not legally protect habitat.

"We are very pleased that the court has confirmed our interpretation of what you have to protect and how you have to protect it," said Margot Venton, a lawyer for Ecojustice, which brought the suit on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups.

"This is a victory not just for the resident killer whales, but for the more than 90 other marine species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act," Venton said. "The court has confirmed that the government must legally protect all aspects of critical habitat from destruction. Now DFO needs to obey its own law."

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The DFO has not responded to the decision, the Sun reported.

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