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World-leading science increases awareness of effects of marine shipping on at-risk whales

December 11, 2019

Port authority-led ECHO Program celebrates five years of advancing collaborative research

Vancouver, B.C.: The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program reached a milestone last month, marking five years of collaboration and research to better understand the effects of marine shipping on at-risk whales.

In 2014, recognizing that commercial marine activity in the region is growing and that vessel traffic calling at the Port of Vancouver transits through critical habitat for endangered southern resident killer whales, the port authority officially launched the ECHO Program. With a goal of reducing the effects of marine shipping on whales, this collaborative program is a regional transboundary effort that brings together a diverse group of advisors and partners from the marine transportation industry, Indigenous groups, government agencies, conservation and environmental groups, and scientific organizations.

“As we celebrate the ECHO Program’s five-year anniversary, we would like to thank our advisors, collaborators and research participants for voluntarily sharing their knowledge and time over the years and for continuing to make this work a priority,” says Duncan Wilson, vice president, environment, community and government affairs at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver.

Since its inception, the ECHO Program has used underwater microphones to measure noise levels, including the sound of more than 10,000 ship movements in the Salish Sea. Over 5,000 large ships have voluntarily slowed down in, or moved away from, important southern resident killer whale feeding areas to reduce underwater noise in those areas. The ECHO Program also provides resources to help mariners build awareness of local whale species and the effects ships may have on them, as well as best practices for navigating in the presence of whales.

Environmental protection is core to the port authority’s mandate, and the well-being of the whales contributes to a healthy environment, which is a key part of the vision for the Port of Vancouver to be the world’s most sustainable port. The ECHO Program is recognized internationally for its collaborative and progressive research and has become a model of how voluntary collaboration can result in meaningful change to benefit the environment.

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About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Port of Vancouver

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.



Rachel Wong
Communications Advisor – Environmental Programs
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority
[email protected]

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