The Government of Canada will continue to protect Southern Resident killer whales
Vancouver, BC (STL.News) The Southern resident killer whales is an endangered species that has deep cultural significance for Indigenous peoples and coastal communities in the Salish Sea area in southern British Columbia. This is why the Government of Canada is committed to taking continued and important action to support its survival and recovery.
Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, reminded Canadians that as part of the measures introduced by the Government of Canada earlier in 2021, vessels are still prohibited from approaching any killer whale within a 400-meter distance in British Columbia coastal waters between Campbell River and Ucluelet until May 31, 2022. Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations, which require maintaining 200 meters away from killer whales off the coast of B.C., continue to apply year-round.
The 2021 Transport Canada measures resulted in many enforcement actions including the issuance of 11 administrative monetary penalties totaling $45,750. The limited number of repeat violations reflects a successful educational campaign for boaters during the year.
For the fifth year in a row, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program coordinated voluntary initiatives encouraging ships to slow down or stay distanced while transiting through Southern Resident killer whale foraging areas. Last year, these initiatives helped reduce underwater sound intensity by nearly 50% in these areas.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is addressing the food availability challenges by actively supporting salmon habitat restoration projects and focusing on rebuilding the Chinook salmon stock. In 2021, DFO released an additional 1 million hatchery Chinook from the Chilliwack River Hatchery. The Government of Canada also took additional action this year to help develop new technologies and quiet vessel designs that reduce human-made underwater noise.
We will continue to work with marine, not-for-profit, and Indigenous partners in Canada, and with federal officials, state officials, and non-government organizations in the United States to protect Southern Resident killer whales.
- From June 1 to November 30, 2021, three Sanctuary Zones were in a place where fishing and boating were not permitted with some exceptions. These zones were created to reduce underwater noise and physical disturbance so the whales could better socialize, forage and rest.
- A combination of fishing restrictions and voluntary measures were also put in place in key foraging areas within Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat. These measures, which concluded on October 31, 2021, aimed to reduce competition for Chinook salmon between fish harvesters and killer whales and to reduce acoustic and physical vessel disturbance.
- In addition to on-the-water efforts by enforcement officers, recreational boaters and fishers were reached through a diverse outreach and education campaign including audio ads, billboards, social media, and a new e-bulletin. Parks Canada’s Outreach Team also engaged with over 3,800 people through in-person outreach at marinas in the Lower Mainland and on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
- Voluntary participation rates by the marine transportation industry in all three of the ECHO Program’s initiatives exceeded 80%.
- The new Outreach Toolkit recently launched by Be Whale Wise demonstrates a collaborative effort through a collection of resources for mariners, educators, and the public.
- The 2021 measures reflect advice from First Nations, the Southern Resident killer whale Technical Working Groups, the Indigenous and Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group, and from public consultations.
- The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, the $167.4 million Whales Initiative and a further investment of $61.5 million, specific to Southern Resident killer whales, all support work to address key threats to Southern Resident killer whales.
- In 2019, the Government of Canada signed a five-year agreement with industry partners that are part of the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program, which sees large commercial vessels operating in Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat voluntarily developing and implementing threat reduction measures to support whale recovery.
- Parks Canada’s Outreach Team delivers online and in-person educational programs to encourage Canadians to learn about the endangered Southern Resident killer whales and to take actions to help protect this iconic species.
“For the third year in a row, we have taken concrete action to protect this iconic endangered species. We take the survival and recovery of Southern Resident killer whales seriously, and as such, want to remind boaters that the 400 m approach distance restriction is still in effect until May 31, 2022.”
The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport
“Southern Resident killer whales are a vital part of British Columbia’s sensitive ecosystems. Canadians care about this endangered species and want them to recover and thrive. We’re seeing encouraging results from enhanced federal protective measures and will continue to build on this in partnership with industry, Indigenous groups, and others to ensure the protection and regeneration of this important species.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“The continued strong participation by the marine transportation industry in the port authority-led ECHO Program’s initiatives to reduce underwater noise in key Southern Resident killer whale foraging areas is a testament to the power of voluntary initiatives at inspiring meaningful change towards quieter oceans for healthier whales.”
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Vice President, Environment and External Affairs