Media releases

Expanded voluntary ship slowdown through Haro Strait and Boundary Pass set to begin

June 4, 2019

Trial through key killer whale feeding areas will help to better understand and reduce underwater noise effects for southern resident killer whales

June 4, 2019

Effective June 1, the commercial shipping industry is on alert to begin voluntarily slowing their ships when southern resident killer whales return to Haro Strait and Boundary Pass to feed for the summer. Now in its third year, voluntary ship slowdowns are part of a regional-scale collaborative research trial coordinated by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program, which aims to reduce underwater noise from large commercial ships that could affect these at-risk whales.

The ECHO Program collaborates with government agencies, marine transportation industry, Indigenous individuals, conservation and environmental groups and scientists through its advisory working group and associated technical committees. Over the past two summer seasons, the ECHO Program, supported by partners and advisors, coordinated voluntary ship slowdowns in Haro Strait, a key feeding area within southern resident killer whale critical habitat. The research demonstrated that reducing ship speed effectively reduced the underwater noise in nearby habitats. This in turn, is predicted to benefit the behaviour and feeding success of southern resident killer whales.

This year, in order to reduce underwater noise effects on whales over a larger geographic area, the trial zone is expanded to include both Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, which were identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada earlier this year as key killer whale foraging areas. The distance of the trial area has been increased 15.1 nautical miles from previous ECHO Program voluntary ship slowdown trials for a total of 29.6 nautical miles.

“The ECHO Program’s world-leading collaborative approach to developing and implementing voluntary measures such as these ship slowdown studies has allowed regional partners and advisors, including Indigenous representatives, environmental groups and industry, to take an active role in helping to better understand and reduce the effects of ship traffic on at-risk whales,” says Duncan Wilson, vice-president of environmental community and aboriginal affairs at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “We look forward to continuing this important research to reduce underwater noise effects from ships on whales, in particular the iconic southern resident killer whales.”

The goal of this year’s expanded voluntary vessel slowdown trial is to maximize the benefits to southern resident killer whales by ensuring as many ships as possible participate in the expanded trial. The voluntary ship slowdown will continue until September 30, 2019 with two-week extensions to no later than October 31 if southern resident killer whales are still present in the area.

For more information

 About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and ECHO Program

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is responsible for the planning and stewardship of the federal port lands that make up the Port of Vancouver. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest, and the third largest in North America by tonnes of cargo, facilitating trade between Canada and more than 170 world economies. Located in a naturally beautiful setting on Canada’s west coast, the port authority and port terminals and tenants are responsible for the efficient and reliable movement of goods and passengers, integrating environmental, social and economic sustainability initiatives into all areas of port operations. Enabling the trade of approximately $200 billion in goods, port activities sustain 115,300 jobs, $7 billion in wages, and $11.9 billion in GDP across Canada.

The ECHO Program is a collaborative research initiative led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority with the input and advice of government agencies, marine transportation industry, Indigenous individuals, environmental and conservation organizations, and scientific experts. It was developed to better understand the cumulative effects of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia. The long-term goal for the ECHO Program is to develop voluntary measures that will lead to a reduction in threats to whales from shipping activities.

Media contact:
Rachel Wong
Communications Advisor, Environmental Programs
[email protected]

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