2021 ECHO Program annual report highlights key actions to help create quieter oceans for healthier whales

March 25, 2022

Today, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority published the 2021 annual report for the Enhancing Cetacean and Habitat Observation (ECHO) Program.

The ECHO Program is a world-leading, first-of-its-kind program developed and led by the port authority to better understand and reduce the cumulative effects of commercial shipping on at-risk whales along British Columbia’s southern coast, with a focus on endangered southern resident killer whales. Launched in 2014, the ECHO Program is a key part of the port authority’s efforts to enable Canada’s trade within a context of strong environmental protection.  

The year 2021 marked the ECHO Program’s fifth year of coordinating underwater noise reduction initiatives throughout the Salish Sea, in addition to spearheading international research and education activities. The 2021 ECHO Program annual report highlights key projects advanced throughout the previous year, as well as a brief overview of the program’s planned activities for the year to come. 

Key ECHO Program accomplishments highlighted within the 2021 annual report include:  

  • Organizing the program’s longest-running season of underwater noise reduction initiatives, which spanned across more than 74 nautical miles of the Salish Sea
  • Encouraging more than 1,000 ship operators to slow down or stay distanced within the critical habitat of southern resident killer whales, which helped reduce underwater sound intensity by approximately 50% in key southern resident killer whale foraging areas
  • Leading efforts to align the quiet ship notations of international shipping classification societies—an important step toward making quieter ships more uniformly recognized and incentivized by ports across the globe 
  • Gaining international recognition from the European Maritime Safety Agency and the United Nations International Oceanographic Commission, which highlighted the ECHO Program as a model of an effective voluntary program to reduce underwater noise from ships  

The port authority recognizes and thanks the ECHO Program’s many Canadian and U.S. partners and advisors from across government, the marine transportation industry, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups. With their ongoing support–and the voluntary participation of more than 80 marine shipping organizations–the ECHO Program is continuing to help create quieter oceans, for healthier whales.

This year, the ECHO Program will continue to lead underwater noise-reduction efforts, research projects, and education activities. Notably, the program is exploring the potential for a new slowdown trial in the inbound shipping lane at Swiftsure Bank, in addition to its underwater noise reduction initiatives in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait & Boundary Pass.  

To learn more about the ECHO Program, visit our website: