ECHO Program launches 2020 voluntary initiatives to reduce underwater noise

June 1, 2020

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program is once again coordinating voluntary initiatives in 2020 to reduce underwater noise in key feeding areas for southern resident killer whales. 

Starting Monday, June 1, tugboats are asked to move further away from the whales’ known feeding areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is the third year of the voluntary route alteration (or lateral displacement), which will continue until October 31. 

Now in its fourth year, the voluntary ship slowdown in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass will begin once southern resident killer whales are confirmed to be present in the area, with monitoring beginning on June 1. The voluntary ship slowdown will continue until October 1, with two-week extensions to no later than October 31 if southern resident killer whales remain in the area. 

Both voluntary initiatives build on the successes of the past years working in collaboration with the commercial shipping industry, government and many other partners and advisors. 

Underwater noise from ships can interfere with killer whales’ ability to hunt, navigate and communicate.  Since 2014, the award-winning 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. 

Environmental protection is core to the port authority’s mandate, and the well-being of the whales contributes to a healthy environment, a key part of the vision for the Port of Vancouver to be the world’s most sustainable port.