VICTORIA (NEWS1130) – A plan to track the endangered killer whales along the BC coast is drawing opposition from one local conservation group.  The Raincoast Conservation Foundation fears for the animals’ health.

The plan is for American scientists to attach satellite tags to resident southern killer whales to follow and study their movement through West Coast waters.  But the Vancouver Island conservation group says this method is too risky because the barbed tags cut the whales skin and leave open sores.

“The effects from these tags are as varied as infection, to declines in reproduction, declines in body weight and condition. And it’s for these reasons that many wildlife biologists are really questioning the use of invasive tools,” says Dr. Chris Darimont, the group’s science director.

He favours non-invasive techniques, like observing the whales in the wild and using collars similar to the ones used to track wolves.  “These are animals that live in a very polluted environment and one that predisposes them to infection, so tags elevate the risk substantially.”

The foundation is also upset the unilateral decision was not made in consultation with Canadian scientists.