ECHO Program celebrates success of 2020 voluntary initiatives to reduce underwater noise

December 2, 2020

This year, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program led three large-scale, voluntary underwater noise reduction initiatives to reduce underwater noise in key feeding areas for southern resident killer whales (SKRW). As with previous years, a slowdown took place in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass and an inshore lateral displacement of tugs took place in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. New for 2020, a slowdown also took place in Swiftsure Bank.

Strong support for the voluntary measures from the commercial shipping industry resulted in record participation rates of over 80% for all three initiatives.

Key highlights from the 2020 ECHO Program voluntary underwater noise reduction initiatives:

  • Voluntary initiatives extended for approximately 74 nautical miles and helped reduce underwater noise in approximately 47% of SRKW critical habitat areas that directly overlap the commercial shipping lanes
  • Approximately 80 organizations confirmed their intent to participate in the voluntary initiatives and over 30 organizations provided advice and support for the development of the initiatives
  • 2,802 large commercial vessels took action to reduce underwater noise in SRKW critical habitat

On Tuesday, December 1, the port authority hosted a virtual event to thank participants for their continued voluntary efforts and contributions towards the recovery of the endangered SKRW. The event featured a video greeting from Honourable Bernadette Jordan, minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Honourable Marc Garneau, minister of transport, as well as a keynote speech by Dr. Anna Hall, a renowned zoologist and marine mammal expert.

Since 2014, the award-winning port authority-led ECHO Program has advanced numerous collaborative research initiatives and voluntary measures to better understand and reduce the cumulative effects of shipping on whales in our region, in particular the southern resident killer whale. The long-term goal for the ECHO Program is to develop voluntary measures that lead to a reduction in threats to at-risk whales from shipping activities.

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