Response from Minister Wilkinson on the findings of study about Resident killer whales on the Pacific Coast


July 8, 2019             

Vancouver, BC - Canada’s Pacific Coast is home to the killer whale, iconic to British Columbians and to all Canadians, and of profound and historic cultural significance for coastal First Nations. Scientific research helps us better understand the threats facing this important species so we can better protect them for generations to come.

Today, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS), which coordinates the production of peer-reviewed science advice at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, released a report on the cumulative effects for the Northern and Southern Resident killer whale populations. The study, which looked at data up to the end of 2017, assessed the combined incremental effects of key threats (reduced prey availability, physical and acoustic disturbance, and environmental contaminants) to Northern and Southern Resident killer whale populations. The results highlight the importance of considering the cumulative impact of these threats on these populations as a whole to help explain population trends and inform recovery actions.

While an important addition to the existing body of research, the study does not include the impact of any of the important investments and measures that the government has taken since the end of 2017. It does; however, provide us with a baseline to measure the efficacy of the measures we have put in place since then. Furthermore, it will strengthen our ability to make evidence-based decisions around future management actions to support recovery for killer whale populations in B.C.
In recent months and years, the government has made significant investments and taken bold action to support the recovery of killer whales. Through initiatives included in the historic $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan and in the $167.4 million Whales Initiative, the government is addressing each of the key threats that killer whales face: lack of food, noise and physical disturbance from vessels, and contaminants in the ecosystem. More specifically, we are:

  • Improving prey availability for the Southern Resident Killer Whale;
  • Reducing disturbance from underwater vessel noise;
  • Enhancing monitoring under the water and in the air;
  • Encouraging compliance and strengthening enforcement; and
  • Building partnerships for additional action.

In October 2018, the Government announced a further investment of $61.5 million over five years to build on these actions, specifically for Southern Resident killer whales, and again in May 2019, informed by direct consultations with First Nations, stakeholders and local communities, an additional series of enhanced measures were announced to further address these key threats. This includes entering into an agreement with the Pacific Whale Watch Association who will refrain from offering tours on Southern Resident killer whales; partnering with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s ECHO program to put slowdowns in place for commercial vessels over a longer distance through Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, starting as early as June 1; requiring vessels to stay at least 400 meters away from all killer whales when in Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat; and asking vessels to reduce their speed to less than 7 knots if they are within 1,000 metres of killer whales in certain areas.

The Government of Canada recognizes that Northern and Southern Resident killer whales face imminent threats to survival and recovery and we are committed to doing everything we can to protect them.

Associated Links

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Marie-Pascale Des Rosiers
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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