2022 ECHO Program annual report highlights record-breaking year of measures to protect at-risk whales

March 29, 2023

Today, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority published 2022 annual report for the Enhancing Cetacean and Habitat Observation (ECHO) Program. Launched by the port authority in 2014, the ECHO Program is a collaborative regional initiative to better understand and reduce the cumulative effects of commercial shipping on at-risk whales off British Columbia’s southern coast, with a focus on endangered southern resident killer whales.

The year 2022 was the ECHO Program’s sixth year of coordinating underwater noise reduction measures across the Salish Sea while advancing globally-reaching research and education efforts on underwater noise. The year was marked by several record-breaking achievements and milestones

  • Encouraging ship operators to slow down or stay distanced on a record-breaking 86% of all ship transits through key areas of southern resident killer whale critical habitat in Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, Swiftsure Bank, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca
  • Coordinating underwater noise reduction measures across the largest geographical area to date—80 nautical miles off the Salish Sea, covering 47% of all southern resident killer whale critical habitat that overlaps with international shipping lanes
  • Collaborating with Indigenous groups in the U.S. and Canada to trial an expanded ship slowdown at Swiftsure Bank, a key foraging area for southern resident killer whales that overlaps with the main entry point used by commercial ships en route to the Port of Vancouver from the open ocean
  • Reducing underwater noise from ships—one of the key threats to at-risk whales identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada—by nearly 50%
  • Helping to shape the International Maritime Organization’s new underwater noise reduction guidelines, which will provide global best practices for the reduction of underwater noise by ship manufacturers, owners, and operators around the world

The port authority thanks the ECHO Program’s many partners and advisors from across government, the marine transportation industry, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups in Canada and the U.S. With their ongoing support, and the voluntary participation of more than 100 marine shipping organizations, the ECHO Program is continuing to help create quieter oceans, for healthier whales.

In the year ahead, the ECHO Program will continue to lead threat reduction efforts, research projects, and education activities to support the recovery of at-risk whales in the region. Notably, the program will publish a co-benefits study to better understand the full benefits of the ECHO Program’s voluntary slowdowns and quantify the benefits of slowing ships down on factors such as whale strike risk and greenhouse gas emissions.  

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