Government of Canada puts important measures in place to protect Southern Resident killer whales

News release

April 29, 2022        Ottawa, Ontario

Southern Resident killer whales are icons of Canada’s Pacific coast and have important cultural significance for Indigenous Peoples and coastal communities in British Columbia. The Government of Canada continues to take strong action to protect and restore their population. For the fourth consecutive year, it will implement measures to further protect these whales in Canadian waters.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Joyce Murray, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, announced protective measures for Southern Resident killer whales on the West Coast.

These measures include:

  • Two new Seasonal Slowdown Areas near Swiftsure Bank, in which all vessels will be restricted to a maximum speed of 10 knots, in effect from June 1 to November 30, 2022. This measure was co-developed with Pacheedaht First Nation and incorporates new scientific information about habitat use.
  • For the third consecutive year, vessels must stay at least 400 m away from all killer whales in southern British Columbia coastal waters between Campbell River and Ucluelet, including Barkley and Howe Sound. This is in effect year-round until May 31, 2023. If killer whales approach any vessel, boaters should place their engine in neutral and wait for the animals to pass.
  • A renewed agreement with local whale watching and ecotourism industry partners to once again not offer or promote tours focused on Southern Resident killer whales.
  • Re-introducing two interim sanctuary zones off Pender Island and Saturna Island from June 1 to November 30, 2022. No vessel traffic will be permitted in these areas during this period, subject to certain exceptions for emergency situations and Indigenous vessels.
  • Expanded fishery closures will be put in place for commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in 2022 in a portion of Swiftsure Bank, Southern Gulf Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Mouth of the Fraser River. These actions will help protect the whales’ access to salmon and minimize disturbance in key foraging areas. Fishing closures will be modified compared to 2021 based on new science advice regarding whale presence, their foraging areas, and impacts of vessel disturbance.
  • Similar to last year, the Southern Gulf Islands closure protocol for commercial and recreational salmon fisheries will be in effect from the first confirmed presence of Southern Resident killer whales in the area until October 31.
  • Continuing to help reduce contaminants in the environment affecting whales and their prey. Long-term actions focus on enhancing regulatory controls, monitoring and research, sharing information and data, and expanding outreach and education. Recent progress includes launching the Pollutants Affecting Whales and their Prey Inventory Tool, which maps estimates of pollutant releases within the habitats of Southern Resident killer whales and their prey. This tool is public and will help model the impacts of additional mitigation measures and controls.
  • The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program will coordinate voluntary underwater noise reduction initiatives in key areas of Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat across the Salish Sea, including Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, Swiftsure Bank, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Transport Canada works with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, RCMP and Canadian Coast Guard to plan and execute the SRKW Interim Order compliance and enforcement regime and will continue to strengthen enforcement of these measures.

Effectively ensuring the protection and recovery of Southern Resident killer whales requires a long-term, collective effort by the Government of Canada and its partners. These measures once again reflect advice from First Nations, the Southern Resident killer whale Technical Working Groups, the Indigenous and Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, and from public consultations.


“The Government of Canada continues to take concrete actions to help protect our vulnerable and endangered marine mammal species. That’s why, for the fourth straight year, we are putting in protective measures to help protect Southern Resident killer whales. It is imperative that we continue our efforts to ensure a quieter, safer environment for this iconic, vulnerable species.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport

“Southern Resident killer whales have called the Pacific coast home for thousands of years, and we want to see their population grow, flourish, and return to their former abundance. Our government has been taking significant actions to protect these majestic creatures and we will enhance our protection measures to help limit the impacts of human activity in their habitats. We’ll continue this important work in partnership with industry, Indigenous groups, the science community, and others."

The Honourable Joyce Murray
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Southern Resident killer whales sit at the top of their food chain. Actions geared toward reducing the contaminants entering their habitat and subsequently impacting their health will aid in the recovery and survival of this population. We will continue our research and monitoring programs designed with this whale population in mind and focus on strengthening actions on priority contaminants. And we will keep increasing awareness and understanding of marine conservation in Canada.”

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

Quick facts

  • The 2022 fishing closures will be announced in June 2022 upon completion of Canada’s Pacific Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plans.

  • There were 155 enforcement actions issued in relation to measures in place in 2021, including multiple administrative monetary penalties worth a total of $51,500. This represents fewer violations than in past years. Mariner educational campaigns that were held during the boating season positively impacted compliance with the measures, and these efforts will be increased this year.

  • In 2019, the Government of Canada signed a five-year Species at Risk Act Conservation Agreement with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and industry partners to support the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whales. As part of this agreement, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led ECHO Program develops and implements voluntary measures to reduce the impacts of commercial shipping on at-risk whales off British Columbia’s southern coast. 

  • Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, Whales Initiative, and an additional federal investment of $61.5 million are supporting the survival and recovery of Southern Resident killer whales, North Atlantic right whales, and St. Lawrence Estuary belugas by implementing protection measures, increasing research, and monitoring activities and taking action to address key threats.

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Laurel Lennox
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport, Ottawa
(613) 290-8656

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

Claire Teichman
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
(604) 679-5462

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada

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

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