Government of Canada takes additional steps to support recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea

News release

November 29, 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.

In June 2018, the Government of Canada announced the $167.4 million Whales Initiative, which increases Transport Canada’s research and monitoring of underwater noise and vessel movement. Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced additional measures to support the recovery of endangered whale populations. A contract for an underwater listening station with “hydrophones” will be awarded shortly to a Canadian firm for approximately $9.5 million. This state of the art hydrophone station will be deployed in the Southern Resident Killer Whale’s critical habitat, at Boundary Pass in the Salish Sea.

This underwater listening station will detect and measure vessel and ambient noise in shipping lanes serving Canada’s busiest port and improve the effectiveness of underwater noise reduction measures.

The 2018 voluntary measures in Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca ended when the Southern Resident Killer Whales left the region. The Government of Canada wishes to thank the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s ECHO program for its leadership in coordinating these measures, and all the vessel operators who participated.  The initiatives saw high levels of participation from vessels, and work is underway now to assess the effectiveness of the measures. The analysis will enable the Government and its partners to adapt measures, as needed, for next season to ensure effective reductions in underwater noise. These combined efforts are a testament to the Government of Canada’s promise to protect the endangered whale populations through the Oceans Protection Plan.

Launched in November 2016, the five year, $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. Over the past two years, the Government of Canada has invested in hundreds of projects that are making our marine safety system stronger, and protecting our coastal environments and marine species more than ever before. Based on the latest science and technology, Indigenous partnerships and collaboration, these projects bring us closer to healthier, cleaner and safer oceans.


“I wish to thank those who participated in and helped support the voluntary measures in place over this past season. It is due to the ongoing collaboration and commitment that we are able to achieve the reductions in noise necessary to help the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Transport Canada looks forward to continuing this collaboration to identify and implement the best and most effective means to reduce the threat of underwater noise.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

Our government is taking bold actions to help protect and restore the iconic Southern Resident Killer Whales. We know that one of the threats facing the whales is underwater noise. This new listening device will help the government and its partners learn more about noise and how best to mitigate it. Our goal is, when the whales return to the Salish Sea in the spring, they will have more food to eat, cleaner water to swim in, and a quieter place to call home.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • In Haro Strait, a voluntary vessel slowdown in summer 2018 was built on the successful 2017 slowdown in the same area that significantly reduced underwater noise in critical habitat when Southern Resident Killer Whales were present.

  • The Strait of Juan de Fuca lateral displacement trial demonstrated consistent shifts of commercial vessels away from key Southern Resident Killer Whale foraging areas when the whales were present.

  • In October 2018, the Government of Canada, with Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program, deployed an underwater hydrophone at Boundary Pass in the Salish Sea. Over the coming months, the hydrophone will collect individual vessel and mammal noise profiles and the information will be used to develop and assess measures to further support the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

  • Transport Canada continues to investigate technology based solutions to decrease underwater noise from marine shipping.  For example, Transport Canada recently launched a four-year project with the National Research Council of Canada to better predict vessel propeller noise and hull vibration. Since August 2018, the Strait of Juan de Fuca lateral displacement trial has seen consistent shifts of commercial vessels away from key Southern Resident Killer Whale foraging areas.

  • On October 31, 2018, the Government of Canada announced a suite of additional bold measures focused on broadening and strengthening protection for the species. An additional $61.5 million is being committed to implement new measures that include identifying and protecting new areas of habitat, protecting and recovering Chinook salmon stocks, and expanding the vessel slowdowns. The plan is to have additional measures in place by the time the whales usually return to the Salish Sea in greater numbers in late spring.

Associated links


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

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: