Vessel Slowdown Trial in Haro Strait

Between August 7 and October 6, 2017, all vessels transiting Haro Strait are requested to reduce their speed to 11 knots (speed through the water) between Discovery Island at the southern end, and Henry Island at the northern end.

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Studying the relationship of speed and underwater noise to reduce impacts on whales

The population of endangered southern resident killer whales is just 78 individuals (April 2017) and the species has shown little sign of recovery since the 1980s. Acoustic disturbance from vessel noise is identified by the federal government as a key threat to the recovery of the southern resident killer whale (SRKW). Research indicates that underwater vessel noise can interfere with their ability to hunt, navigate and communicate with each other. SRKW critical habitat directly overlaps with international shipping routes, ferry routes and other marine traffic routes in the Salish Sea.

The purpose of the trial is to better understand and measure the level of noise reduction which is achieved through reduced vessel speed. During the trial period, the ECHO Program team will use AIS to monitor and measure commercial vessel participation rates, and hydrophones to assess the impact of reducing vessel speed on underwater noise. Potential financial and operational impacts to the shipping industry will also be evaluated.

High vessel participation rates will greatly enhance the strength and value of the information collected, in turn supporting rigorous analysis and sound, scientific conclusions on the effectiveness of the trial. It will also demonstrate the shipping industry’s commitment to proactively explore sustainable options to minimize its environmental impact on endangered whales.

At the conclusion of the trial, a full analysis of the effectiveness of slowing vessels down to reduce acoustic disturbance will be conducted by the ECHO Program team. In consultation with our vessel operators committee regarding industry impacts, this analysis will be used to inform decision making and determine next steps.

Vessel slowdown trial area and transition zones.

Trial location

Haro Strait is an important summer feeding area for southern resident killer whales and has been identified as a key hot spot for vessel noise disturbance.

The trial slowdown area is located between Discovery Island at the southern end, and Henry Island at the northern end. The distance of the trial area is 16.6 nautical miles inbound, 14.9 nautical miles outbound.

Transition speed zones have been marked to the north and south of the trial zone.

How to participate

Commercial AIS equipped vessels Please transit the trial zone at 11kn (speed through water). AIS equipped vessels will be monitored and measured automatically. Please note: Slowing down to 11 knots through Haro Strait could introduce delays of between 30 minutes to an hour between Boundary Pass and Brotchie Point, depending on vessel type and tidal currents. Inbound vessels should adjust their planned arrival time at Brotchie Point to minimize potential impacts to their scheduled berth or anchorage arrival times.
Recreational, whale watch and other commercial vessels Please transit the trial zone at 11kn (speed through water). Boaters are encouraged to respect this speed limit and be aware of commercial vessels in the area.

Trial participants

The voluntary trial is being planned and coordinated by the ECHO Program with the assistance of a vessel operators committee representing BC Coast Pilots, BC Ferries, the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, Cruise Line International Association North West and Canada, Hapag-Lloyd (Canada) Inc., Holland America Group, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Washington State Ferries and Transport Canada.

The following companies have confirmed their intent to participate, where operationally and economically feasible, on a transit by transit basis.

AAL Shipping
ACGI Shipping Inc.
BC Coast Pilots

Buchanan Cruises, LLC
Carnival Cruise Line
Celebrity Cruise Lines
Colley West Shipping Ltd.
Crystal Cruises
CSL International
Evergreen Line
Fairmont Shipping (Canada) Ltd.
G2 Ocean
Hamburg Sud
Holland America Line
Hudson Shipping Lines
Hyundai America Shipping Agency Inc.
Inchcape Shipping Services
Mason Agency Ltd.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines
Montship Inc.
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company
Navitrans Shipping Agencies West Inc.
Neptune Bulk Terminal
Norton Lilly Vancouver

Norwegian Cruise Line
NYK Line
Oceaenia Cruises
Oxbow Sulphur Canada
Pacific Basin Shipping
Pacific NorthWest Ship & Cargo Services Inc.
Princess Cruise Line
Ravensdown Shipping Services Ltd.
Robert Reford
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line
SAAM SMIT Vancouver Inc.
Saga Welco AS
Seabourn Cruise Line
Seaspan ULC
Swire Shipping
Trans-Oceanic Shipping
Valles Steamship (Canada) Ltd.
Washington State Ferries
Westward Shipping Ltd.
Westwood Shipping Lines
Wheelhouse Shipping Agency
Wilhelmsen Ships Service

Trial supporters

The following companies have either supported the development of the trial or have committed to sharing trial information with their members, employees or stakeholders.

BC Coast Pilots
BC Ferries
Chamber of Shipping
Cruise Line International Association North West and Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Georgia Strait Alliance
Holland America Group
International Ship-owners Alliance of Canada
Shipping Federation of Canada
Pacific Pilotage Authority
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority
Washington State Ferries
Transport Canada

Stipend application instructions

Piloted vessels with validated transit speeds equal to or less than 11kn through the water between 00:01 PST August 7 and 11:59 PST October 6, 2017 in the Haro Strait trial area will be considered eligible for a $500 stipend per transit. To apply for the stipend, please fill out the online application form. Please communicate with your agents and/or vessel owners/operators to ensure only one application is submitted per transit. All applications must be submitted by October 31, 2017. If you wish to forego the stipend in order to support continued whale research, there is no need to fill out the application. If you have any questions about the stipend application process, please contact [email protected].


Vessel slowdown trial – backgrounder [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – operational communications, procedures and tracking plan [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – infographic [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – presentation: April 27, 2017 [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – map with coordinates [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – pilot decision matrix [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – agent decision matrix [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – agent portal instructions (provided by Pacific Pilotage Authority)  [PDF]
Vessel slowdown trial – stipend application [link]
ECHO Program

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.