Working together to reduce underwater noise in endangered killer whale feeding areas by moving tugboats further away
Since 2014, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program has undertaken numerous collaborative research initiatives to better understand and manage the cumulative effects of shipping activities on whales in our region, in particular the southern resident killer whales. Underwater noise from ships and tugs can interfere with whales’ ability to hunt, navigate and communicate.
In 2018 and 2019, the ECHO Program—supported by Transport Canada, Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian and U.S. marine transportation industry—coordinated the implementation of a voluntary trial to study how moving vessels further away from known whale feeding areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca would affect the underwater noise levels in those areas.
About the 2020 voluntary inshore lateral displacement for tugboat operators
Between June 1 and October 31, 2020, tugboats transiting in the Canadian inshore area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are asked to move south of the known killer whale feeding area and navigate through the inshore lateral displacement zone or the outbound shipping lane.
Tugboats are encouraged to participate whether or not they are towing a barge.
Resources for participating tugboat operators:
- Fact sheet for 2020 voluntary lateral displacement in the Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Full sized map of inshore lateral displacement area
- ECHO Program update newsletter #1 – May 28, 2020
Success requires collaboration
The logistics of coordinating a lateral displacement outside of the port authority’s jurisdiction are complex and involve collaboration with many other advisors and partners. The port authority is very grateful for the ongoing participation and support of our many advisors and partners who contribute to the continued success of these voluntary initiatives.
In 2019, 77% of tugs participated in the lateral displacement trial by spending more than half of their transit in the inshore trial zone or the outbound shipping lane. We thank the tug and barge operators for their ongoing support and participation.
This voluntary inshore displacement initiative is one of the commitments of the ECHO Program’s Species at Risk Act, Section 11 Conservation Agreement.
About southern resident killer whales
Southern resident killer whales are listed as endangered under both the Species at Risk Act in Canada and the Endangered Species Act in the United States. As of December 31, 2019, the population has declined to 73 individuals. Both countries’ governments continue to emphasize the need to develop and implement measures to reduce underwater noise generated by ships.
- 2019 voluntary lateral displacement in the Strait of Juan de Fuca – Background
- 2018 voluntary lateral displacement in the Strait of Juan de Fuca – Final report
- 2018 voluntary lateral displacement in the Strait of Juan de Fuca – Background
Questions or feedback
For more information on the lateral displacement, please contact the ECHO Program team at [email protected] or the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Operations Centre which is available 24/7 at 604.665.9086. For updates on the lateral displacement and other ECHO Program initiatives, please subscribe to the ECHO Program newsletter.