Marine Mammals

The safety of wildlife populations in local waters is an essential feature of a healthy and fully functioning marine environment. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is deeply committed to ensuring our operations remain environmentally responsible and sustainable, as well as safeguarding and promoting the protection of local wildlife.

Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program

The Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program is a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led initiative aimed at better understanding and managing the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia.

British Columbia has a productive coastal ecosystem that sustains populations of whales, porpoises and dolphins (cetaceans). You may have had the pleasure of seeing some of these whales, such as southern and northern resident killer whales, humpback, fin, blue and sei whales. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has published Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategies and Action Plans for a number of at-risk whale species in the region designating critical habitat.

Much of the commercial vessel activity in the southern coast of British Columbia transits designated critical habitat of endangered southern resident killer whales as well as areas known to be of importance to other at-risk whales. We are committed to conducting operations in a responsible and sustainable manner that safeguards and promotes continual protection of the environment. For these reasons, the ECHO Program has been developed.

Learn more about the ECHO Program.

Dredging and marine mammals

The port authority maintains a deep-sea shipping channel in the lower 36 kilometres of the Fraser River, from Sand Heads to New Westminster, including an area which is designated as critical habitat for southern resident killer whales. The navigation channel provides access for deep-sea shipping vessels, dredges, ferries, tugs and tows, fishing vessels, and pleasure craft to businesses and industries in the municipalities of Richmond, Delta, Surrey and New Westminster.

To ensure dredging activities in the Fraser River do not impact southern resident killer whales, a trained marine mammal observer is on board each dredging vessel. If a killer whale is detected within 1,000 metres of the dredging or disposal site, all operations cease until 30 minutes after the whale has left the area. Observation logs are kept, documenting all stoppages, and this information is reported annually to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and to Environment Canada.

Learn more about the Fraser River maintenance and dredging.