Southern Resident Killer Whales

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada is committed to taking action to support the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) off the coast of British Columbia. This includes reducing the impact of contaminants that threaten the recovery of resident killer whale populations, improving their access to an adequate and accessible food supply, and reducing the underwater noise levels within their habitat. The government is also strengthening science, including new research into cumulative effects to establish baselines to inform actions and reducing the impacts of underwater vessel noise.

Transport Canada is leading on work to reduce the impacts of underwater vessel noise, while the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for overall recovery of the species.

Actions that will benefit the Southern Resident Killer Whale population include:

  • With the financial support from the Government of Canada, on May 1-3, 2017, the Coastal Ocean Research Institute hosted a 3-day workshop with international and domestic noise experts to recommend how best to measure the qualities and characteristics of noise that have the greatest impact on Southern Resident Killer Whale. This work included developing a framework to inform and assess future mitigation measures while helping with how to detect, measure and describe changes in the quality of the acoustic environment from the whale’s perspective.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada was requested to provide Science advice, through a national peer-reviewed Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat process on possible mitigation measures to reduce shipping-related noise in the Southern Resident Killer Whale’s habitat. The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat is a peer-reviewed process that brings together scientists from academia, government and non-governmental organizations and provides scientific advice and recommendations on specific science-related questions posed by the government. The report will be posted in the website of the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat once completed.
  • The Government of Canada is working with JASCO Applied Sciences (Canada) Ltd to investigate various mitigation scenarios that are most likely to reduce shipping noise in the Southern Resident Killer Whale habitat. JASCO is a company which develops acoustic computer models that predict the impact of shipping and other sources of industrial noise on marine ecosystems. Their report will be completed shortly and the Government of Canada looks forward to reviewing it.
  • In addition to understanding noise impacts on the Southern Resident Killer Whale’s habitat, and to promote overall greater understanding of these whales, the Government of Canada is organizing a symposium in Vancouver on October 11-12, 2017. The Southern Resident Killer Whale Symposium will promote dialogue and improve understanding of the options and shared responsibilities associated with protecting and supporting the recovery of this species. It will bring together scientists and other experts as well as government officials. The Symposium will develop the relationships and partnerships required to protect and recover SRKW by confirming actions of key players, roles and responsibilities, and cooperative research opportunities.
  • No animal recognizes borders or jurisdictions and all vessel types contribute to underwater noise. That’s why broad collaboration is critical to support the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale. This past July, the Government of Canada raised the issue of underwater vessel noise at the International Maritime Organization's Marine Environment Protection Committee, asking like-minded nations to provide best practices in addressing this issue and seeking partners to help identify solutions. The Government of Canada also continues to hold talks with Canadian marine stakeholders (including non-governmental organizations and industry) and United-States partners to identify opportunities for joint action.
  • Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans are also working closely with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Enhanced Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program. ECHO is currently conducting a voluntary vessel slowdown in Haro Strait, an area of particular importance within the Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat. The data collected on changes in the acoustic environment and whale behaviour will inform future federal actions.

Oceans Protection Plan

These initiatives are part of the Government of Canada’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, a national strategy to create a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines for future generations. The Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made in Canada’s coasts and waterways. The Oceans Protection Plan will involve new measures to improve marine safety and responsible shipping, protect Canada’s marine environment, and offer new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities.


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