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Voluntary ship slowdown through Swiftsure Bank begins August 1

August 4, 2020

Beginning August 1, the commercial shipping industry is encouraged to participate in a new voluntary ship slowdown trial through Swiftsure Bank as part of transboundary efforts to reduce underwater noise and support the recovery of southern resident killer whales. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program is coordinating the voluntary slowdown trial in collaboration with its many advisors and partners in both Canada and the United States.

Swiftsure Bank, off the southwest coast of British Columbia, is located within the critical habitat of southern resident killer whales and has been identified as an important feeding area for both the killer whales and other at-risk marine mammals. Underwater noise from ships can interfere with killer whales’ ability to hunt, navigate and communicate, but research findings show that reducing ship speeds is an effective way of reducing both the underwater noise generated at the ship source and total underwater noise in nearby habitats.

The Swiftsure Bank voluntary ship slowdown is the third ECHO Program voluntary initiative to launch in 2020, adding to the ship slowdown in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass and the lateral displacement (route alteration) for tugboats in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This new research trial will evaluate the amount of voluntary participation and underwater noise reduction that can be achieved by slowing down in non-piloted waters.

“We’re very excited to be expanding the ECHO Program’s voluntary measures to Swiftsure Bank, another key area of critical habitat for southern resident killer whales,” says Duncan Wilson, vice president of environment, community and government affairs at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “Over the past five years, we’ve seen strong support from our partners in the commercial shipping industry, including participation rates above 80% last year for the ship slowdown initiatives in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass. We’ve already seen the positive results that can come from working together, and we look forward to continuing that success.”

“The Government of Canada, through Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan and the Whales Initiative, is dedicated to helping support the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale population,” said The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport. “This new voluntary slowdown in the Swiftsure Bank area is another important step to support these efforts. We thank the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the marine shipping industry, the Indigenous representatives and all of the other advisors and partners of the ECHO Program for their continued commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of these iconic mammals, especially as COVID-19 poses significant challenges to industry.”

The Swiftsure Bank voluntary slowdown trial is in effect from August 1 to October 31, 2020. Southern resident killer whales have historically been observed at Swiftsure Bank year-round, and in greater numbers during the summer and fall months.

For more information

About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and ECHO Program

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver. Like all Canada Port Authorities, we are accountable to the federal minister of transport, and operate pursuant to the Canada Marine Act with a mandate to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities. The port authority is structured as a non-share corporation, is financially self-sufficient and does not rely on tax dollars for operations. Our revenues come from port terminals and tenants who lease port lands, and from port users who pay various fees such as harbour dues. Profits are reinvested in port infrastructure. The port authority has control over the use of port land and water, which includes more than 16,000 hectares of water, over 1,500 hectares of land, and approximately 350 kilometres of shoreline. Located on the southwest coast of British Columbia in Canada, the Port of Vancouver extends from Roberts Bank and the Fraser River up to and including Burrard Inlet, bordering 16 municipalities and intersecting the traditional territories and treaty lands of several Coast Salish First Nations. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, and the third largest in North America by tonnes of cargo. Enabling the trade of approximately $240 billion in goods with more than 170 world economies, port activities sustain 115,300 jobs, $7 billion in wages, and $11.9 billion in GDP across Canada.

Since 2014, the award-winning port authority-led ECHO Program has advanced numerous collaborative research initiatives and voluntary measures to better understand and reduce the cumulative effects of shipping on whales in our region, in particular the southern resident killer whale. 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:
Arpen Rana
Media Relations Advisor
[email protected]

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