The Government of Canada takes immediate action to protect endangered whales through the Oceans Protection Plan

News release

June 22, 2018                Vancouver

Canada has the longest coastline in the world, serving as home to rich biodiversity and precious ecosystems. The Government of Canada is building on its historic Oceans Protection Plan, and taking immediate action to preserve and restore marine ecosystems to help endangered whale populations recover.

Today, Canada’s Whales Initiative was announced in Vancouver by the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and Jonathan Wilkinson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. This $167.4 million initiative under Budget 2018, will protect and support the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the North Atlantic right whale, and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whale through comprehensive actions tailored to address the unique combinations of threats.

Specifically in regards to the Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea, the Government of Canada recognizes that they face an imminent threat to survival and recovery which requires immediate attention. Canada’s Whales Initiative includes immediate and comprehensive action to support their recovery by addressing the main threats they face: lack of prey, disturbance from vessels, including noise and pollution from land-based sources. Key actions include:

Improving prey availability for the Southern Resident Killer Whales by:

  • Reducing the total fishery removal for Chinook salmon by 25-35 per cent, to help increase prey availability;
  • Implementing mandatory fishery closures in specific areas where  whales forage for food by closing these areas to recreational finfishing and commercial salmon fishing, and exploring the use of additional regulatory measures; and
  • Increasing scientific research, monitoring and controls of contaminants in whales and their prey, and funding additional research on prey availability.

Reducing disturbance from underwater vessel noise by:

  • Imposing a new mandatory requirement for all marine vessels (including recreational boats) to stay at least 200 metres away from killer whales, effective July 11, 2018;
  • Asking vessels to move further away from key foraging grounds within shipping lanes of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, and partnering with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program on a voluntary vessel slowdown in Haro Strait starting in July 2018;
  • Working with BC Ferries to develop a noise management plan to reduce underwater noise impacts of its fleet on killer whales; and
  • Developing the necessary tools to implement mandatory measures where needed to reduce noise from vessel traffic, such legislation if required.

Enhancing monitoring under the water and in the air by:

  • Adding to the under-water hydrophone network in the Salish Sea to  better  measure noise impacts and track the noise profile of individual vessels; and
  • Increasing aerial surveillance patrols through the Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Fisheries Aerial Surveillance and Enforcement Program to better monitor and enforce new measures.

Encouraging compliance and strengthening enforcement by:

  • Investing in education and awareness among recreational boaters to reduce their impact on the whales by providing, for example the Cetus Research and Conservation Society with  funding of up to $415,000 for three years to deliver the Straitwatch program;
  • Adding more fishery officers on the water to verify compliance with approach distances and disturbances and harassment provisions of the regulations and enforce fisheries closures; and
  • Enhancing strong enforcement of environmental regulations to reduce contaminants affecting the killer whales.

Building partnerships for additional action

The Government of Canada is committed to working with Indigenous Peoples, environmental organizations, members of ECHO, fishing organizations and the marine industry, as well as other governments to develop additional measures needed to secure the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale. These actions could include additional mandatory measures, legislative changes and adoption of new technologies.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also undertaking a Whale Innovation Challenge initiative in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre to develop solutions towards real-time detection and location of whales. This initiative aims to mobilize the technology development community in Canada and globally to develop whale-specific solutions to better understand the location, abundance and movements of whales and whale populations. This will contribute to scientific whale research and overall efforts to protect endangered whales in Canada.

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 partnership with Indigenous Peoples, and in close collaboration with local stakeholders and coastal communities.


“I am encouraged by how the Government of Canada and its partners have come together to help protect and recover Canada’s endangered whales. With more eyes in the sky and ears in the water, the Southern Resident Killer Whale will get additional protection as we work together to reduce threats. Human-caused threats, including lack of prey, underwater noise, and contaminants, are things we can address together to help save this iconic species.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

“Whales play a very important role in our marine ecosystems, and these iconic species also hold immense cultural value. We have a responsibility to continue to take action to protect our whale populations. Building on the important work done under the Oceans Protection Plan, our government’s Whales Initiative will take concrete steps in helping these endangered whales by increasing our science and reducing the impact of human-caused threats.”

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“The Southern Resident Killer Whale has captured the imagination of British Columbians and has been deeply embedded in the cultures of Indigenous Peoples for many generations. We’re taking meaningful action to address threats to this magnificent creature by implementing additional new measures in partnership with environmental organizations, Indigenous Peoples, governments and stakeholders. We will protect this iconic species for us and for generations to come.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada

Quick facts

  • Southern Resident Killer Whales were listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. Today, it is estimated that about 76 Southern Resident Killer Whales remain in this population.

  • The known range of the Southern Resident Killer Whale extends from northern British Columbia to central California. However, during the summer months they concentrate off the southern end of Vancouver Island and are most frequently sighted in Haro Strait, Georgia Strait, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Associated links


Delphine Denis
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

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Vincent Hughes
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Caroline Thériault
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

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