The government of conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to downgrade the threatened status of the humpback whale. In accordance with the “Species at Risk Act”, the government would reclassify the mammal as a “species of concern”. Naturally, the reclassification has touched a raw nerve with animal rights activists such as Minister of Parliament Nathan Cullen. He claims the decision by the government is suspect.
The question would be what exactly the decision is suspect in regards to? After all, it was biologists that made the recommendation back in 2011. So it’s not as if conservatives are behaving in an arbitrary manner with the reclassification. It is true that a natural habitat for the whale stands in the way of the Northern Gateway pipeline. That habitat is currently considered “critical” under a status of “threatened”, but the new status will allow the government to move forward with the pipeline.
Admittedly, the government of Stephen Harper is pro-growth and favors scientific investments which further the expansion of the Canadian economy. This pro-growth policy also plays a role in their environmental decisions, but that does not mean the decisions lack their own scientific merit. Environmentalists remain in deep disagreement and consider the move as putting business needs above the environment rather than striking a balance between the two competing priorities.
Leona Aglukkaq, the Environment Minister, has made the recommendation for the downgrade in humpback whale status. However, there remains a 30-day window before a final decision is made. During that time, the government will be accepting recommendations. The change in status will bring an end to many protections that have allowed the humpback whale population to grow. This includes protection of their critical habitat. The government claims that increases in the humpback whale population justify the change in status.