2018 Underwater Vessel Noise Reduction Initiatives

The Haro Strait voluntary vessel slowdown is now on

Southern resident killer whales were confirmed present in Haro Strait on July 12, 2018.  The return of these endangered whales signals the start of the voluntary vessel slowdown in Haro Strait.

In 2018, the ECHO Program is planning a number of initiatives which are focused on reducing underwater noise from large commercial vessels within designated critical habitat for the endangered southern resident killer whale population.

Slow down for the whales

The remaining 76 southern resident killer whales are listed as endangered under both the Species at Risk Act in Canada and the Endangered Species Act in the U.S. Both countries’ governments have highlighted the need to develop and implement measures to reduce underwater noise generated by vessels which research indicates can interfere with whales’ ability to hunt, navigate and communicate with each other.

In 2017, the voluntary vessel slowdown trial in Haro Strait demonstrated that reducing vessel speeds is an effective way of reducing the underwater noise generated at the vessel source, as well as reducing total underwater noise in nearby habitats which may in turn benefit the behaviour and feeding success of the southern resident killer whale.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, as the Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency, recently formed the opinion that the SRKW is facing imminent threats to its survival and recovery. With this in mind, a refined approach is proposed for voluntary vessel slowdown action in Haro Strait in 2018 which will utilize different vessel speeds and a dynamic slowdown start and end date in an effort to both maximize vessel participation and benefit to the whales, when they are present.

What’s new this year?


Based on analysis of 2017 information, the ECHO Program has identified optimum speeds for different vessel types to reduce underwater noise levels and maximize vessel participation. Where it is safe and operationally feasible, vessels are encouraged to transit Haro Strait at the following speeds through the water:

Transiting Haro Strait (see figure of slowdown and transition areas below) at these reduced speeds could add between 9 and 15 minutes to the total transit time, depending on the vessel type.

Dynamic trial start and end dates

Between the dates of July 1st and October 31st 2018 vessels should plan for a potential voluntary slowdown in Haro Strait. An SRKW monitoring period will commence on July 1st 2018, but the vessel slowdown will only come into force once southern resident killer whales have been confirmed as present within Haro Strait or a buffer area which encompasses the transition zones, as confirmed by hydrophone data and trusted observers. The official slowdown start and end date will be communicated to mariners through a Notice to Shipping and via the Pacific Pilotage Authority, BC Coast Pilots, shipping associations and agents, and on this webpage and the ECHO newsletter.

Once activated, the vessel slowdown will stay in effect until at least September 15th 2018. Southern resident killer whale monitoring will continue into September and October. If the whales are still confirmed present, the slowdown will extend for a two week period to the end of September. This process of monitoring, evaluation and adaptive two week extension to the slowdown based on whale presence will continue to no later than October 31st 2018.

Vessel participation

With varied vessel speeds and reduced anticipated delay times, we are encouraging all vessels to participate where possible. In order to approach the same levels of vessel noise reduction that were achieved last year, we are striving to achieve an 80% participation rate.

In order to prepare for the voluntary vessel slowdown, please review the agent and pilot decision matrix. Vessel owners and operators, please inform your agents of your decision to participate and clarify any conditions of your participation.

Participation rates by sector will be reported regularly through the ECHO newsletter.

Same as last year


The slowdown area in Haro Strait between Discovery Island and Henry Island is unchanged from last year. Vessels are encouraged to use the transition zones to slow down to the appropriate speed prior to entering the trial boundary. The trial distance is 16.6nm inbound, 14.9nm outbound. Download the map here.


Similar to last year, the ECHO Program will monitor underwater noise levels before, during and after the trial using the hydrophone located at Lime Kiln. Southern resident killer whale presence will be monitored and recorded by hydrophone and human observers. Vessel participation rates will be reported by the Pacific Pilotage Authority and will also be monitored by AIS data. At the end of the slowdown period, an analysis will be conducted by the ECHO Program to evaluate its effectiveness.

Questions or feedback

For more information on the slowdown please contact the ECHO Program team at [email protected] or Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Operations Center which is available 24/7 at 604.665.9086. Visit the ECHO program website for more information.

Subscribe to receive regular updates about the voluntary vessel slowdown

Thank you to the following organizations who have confirmed their intent to participate in the voluntary vessel slow down this summer, where it is operationally and economically feasible for their vessels to do so.

ACGI Shipping Inc.
BC Coast Pilots
Canadian Coast Guard
Canship Ugland
Carnival Cruise Line
Celebrity Cruises
Chamber of Shipping
Colley West Shipping Ltd
Compagnie du Ponant
COSCO Shipping Line Canada Inc.
Cruise Lines International Association – North West & Canada
Crystal Cruises
CSL International Ltd
Disney Cruise Line
Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp
Fairmont Shipping (Canada) Ltd
G2 Ocean
Holland America Line
Hudson Shipping Lines
Inchcape Shipping Services Inc.
International Ship-owners Alliance of Canada
“K” Line
Maersk line
Mason Agency Ltd.
McLean Kennedy
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)
MOL ACE (Americas)
Montship Inc.
Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd.
NORDEN Shipping (Canada)
Norton Lilly International Inc.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Oceania Cruises
Oldendorff Carriers
OOCL Canada
Oxbow Sulphur Canada
Pacific Basin Shipping
Pacific Northwest Ship & Cargo Services
Pacific Pilotage Authority
Princess Cruise Line
Ravensdown Shipping Services Pty Ltd
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Robert Reford
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Caribbean International
SAAM SMIT Vancouver Inc.
Saga Welco AS
Seabourn Sojourn
Seaspan ULC
Shipping Federation of Canada
Silversea Cruises
Sinotrans Canada Inc.
The China Navigation Co. Pte. Ltd
Trans-Oceanic Shipping
Valles Steamship (Canada) Ltd.
Washington State Ferries
Westward Shipping Ltd.
Westwood Shipping Lines
Wheelhouse Shipping Agency
Wilhelmsen Ship Service
Zim Integrated Shipping Services



The 2018 underwater vessel noise reduction initiatives are being planned and coordinated by the ECHO Program with the assistance of many partners including representation from BC Coast Pilots, BC Ferries, Canadian Coast Guard, Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, Council of Marine Carriers, Cruise Line International Association (North West & Canada), Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Holland America Group, Marine Exchange of Puget Sound, Pacific Pilotage Authority, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Royal Canadian Navy, Shipping Federation of Canada, Transport Canada, US Coast Guard, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Washington State Ferries.


ECHO Program
2018 Haro Strait slowdown backgrounder
Agent decision matrix
Pilot decision matrix
Slowdown area map

Please check back to this page for up-to-date information about the trial including resources, announcements and changes. Or subscribe to receive regular updates.