Government announces new initiatives to protect whales under the Oceans Protection Plan

News release

Vancouver, British Columbia - The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the iconic Southern Resident Killer Whale. As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, an historic $1.5-billion investment to make our coasts healthier, safer, and better protected, the government is taking action to protect marine mammals.

Today, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced $9.1 million in new science funding to develop and test technologies able to detect the presence of whales. The ability to capture near real-time information could help alert mariners of whales in a particular area, reducing the risk of collisions.

Minister LeBlanc also announced over $3.1 million for four research projects to study the impacts of underwater noise and reduced availability of prey on marine mammals including the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

  • The University of British Columbia will receive $1.1 million to examine how changes in the food web in areas of the Southern Resident Killer Whale affect the abundance and quality of Chinook Salmon, which is the whale’s primary food source.
  • Ocean Wise will receive over $942,000 for a comprehensive health and condition assessment of Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whale populations to better understand the impact of environmental stressors, particularly noise and prey limitation.
  • The University of Victoria will receive over $935,000 to better understand the behaviour and vulnerabilities of Southern Resident Killer Whales and their prey.
  • The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority will receive $200,000 to continue operating the underwater listening station in the Strait of Georgia, measuring and monitoring noise levels from commercial vessels and the presence of Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea.

In addition to these significant investments under the Oceans Protection Plan, Budget 2018 includes $167.4 million over five years to help protect and recover endangered whale species in Canada, notably the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the North Atlantic Right Whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga. This includes funding for science activities to help better understand factors affecting the health of whale populations, as well as actions to help address the threats arising from human activities.

This Budget 2018 investment builds on a science-based review undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans in 2017 which engaged governments, Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public on how to further protect the North Atlantic Right Whale, the St Lawrence Estuary Beluga and the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Feedback received during the engagement informed planning and decision making for enhanced recovery efforts for these whale populations, The “What We Heard Report” is now available online.

The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. Through this plan, the Government of Canada is creating a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coasts and waterways for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities. 

Additional multimedia

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc
Today Minister LeBlanc announced new federal funding for scientific research that will help protect Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Minister LeBlanc, together with John Nightingale (Ocean Wise), Andrew Trites (UBC), and Robyn Crisanti (Vancouver Fraser Port Authority)
Minister LeBlanc, together with John Nightingale (Ocean Wise), Andrew Trites (UBC), Robyn Crisanti (Vancouver Fraser Port Authority), and Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech, at a federal funding announcement for scientific research that will help protect Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Quotes

“We have a responsibility to ensure that whales are protected for future generations, and we continue to consider all available options to further protect whales in our waters. We are listening to mariners and making investments under the Oceans Protection Plan that will help us to better understand and address human impacts on our precious marine life.”

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“This funding will help us answer important questions about the availability of Chinook salmon and the nutritional needs of the endangered South Resident Killer Whales. With only 76 of these animals left, every piece of information we can obtain about the threats they face is crucial to their survival.”

Andrew Trites, Director, UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries

"We’re thrilled by this opportunity to undertake important research into human impacts on the southern resident killer whales and their prey. We anticipate contributing significantly to understanding the stressors affecting these magnificent marine mammals and, ultimately, to mitigation measures to help ensure their long-term survival and success."

Francis Juanes, Fisheries Ecologist and Liber Ero Chair in Fisheries Research, University of Victoria

“Our scientists have been studying killer whales for more than 50 years. We’ve learned that although they’re an apex predator, at the top of the food chain, they are vulnerable to pressures introduced to their environment by humans. We’re grateful for this funding which allows us to continue assessing threats to their survival — threats such as lack of prey, contaminants, and underwater noise — and to help inform and find solutions for their recovery.”

Dr. John Nightingale, president and CEO, Ocean Wise

“It’s a priority for us to better understand the impact of marine shipping activities on at-risk whales in our region through the work of the port authority-led ECHO program. The federal government’s financial commitment to the third year of operation of the underwater listening station in the Strait of Georgia will allow us to add to the science that is informing possible measures to reduce the impact of vessel noise, which in turn will help us achieve our vision to be the world’s most sustainable port.”

Duncan Wilson, vice president, corporate social responsibility at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

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Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-990-7537
Media.xncr@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Vincent Hughes
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-992-3474
Vincent.Hughes@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

NR-HQ-18-10E

Internet: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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