Government of Canada announces new measures and funding to protect Southern Resident killer whales

News release

June 3, 2024                    Vancouver, British Columbia

Southern Resident killer whales are icons of Canada’s Pacific coast, and culturally significant to Indigenous Peoples and coastal communities in British Columbia. For the sixth consecutive year, the Government of Canada is implementing measures to protect these whales and restore their population.

Today, the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Diane Lebouthillier, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Steven Guilbeault, announced a series of measures, which came into effect as of June 1, as well as an investment of $3.5 million to protect Southern Resident killer whales, and the renewal of a five-year Conservation Agreement that was signed between the Government of Canada and the marine transportation industry.  

The 2024 and 2025 measures include:

  • Two mandatory speed-restricted zones near Swiftsure Bank, effective June 1 to November 30, 2024.
  • Two interim sanctuary zones off Pender and Saturna Islands, effective June 1 to November 30, 2024.
  • A voluntary speed reduction zone in Tumbo Channel, off the North side of Saturna Island.
  • The continued requirement for vessels to stay at least 400 metres away from all killer whales, and a prohibition from impeding the path of all killer whales in Southern British Columbia coastal waters between Campbell River and Ucluelet, including Barkley and Howe Sound. This is now in effect until May 31, 2025.
  • An agreement with local whale watching and ecotourism industry partners to abstain from offering or promoting tours viewing Southern Resident killer whales.
  • Fishery closures for commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in key Southern Resident killer whale foraging areas in 2024 and 2025.
  • Additional actions to reduce contaminants in the environment affecting whales and their prey.

In addition, Transport Canada will provide $3.2 million over two years to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to continue the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program. This program conducts ground-breaking research and coordinates voluntary threat reduction initiatives encouraging ship operators to slow down or stay distanced while travelling through key areas of Southern Resident killer whale habitat in Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, Swiftsure Bank, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Transport Canada will also provide $300,000 to Ocean Wise to support their Whale Report Alert System, which notifies large commercial vessels when they may be near whales via an online app. This enables vessels to take appropriate actions, including monitoring for whale presence and/or slowing the vessel down to reduce disturbance.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is conducting further analysis on long-term protections for killer whales in British Columbia by considering amendments to Pacific killer whale approach distances in the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act. DFO has launched an online national public survey open until September 3, 2024, to consult Canadians on potential amendments to the Marine Mammal Regulations. Any potential changes to the Marine Mammal Regulations will be informed by First Nations, stakeholders, and public feedback, as part of the consultation process, as well as the best available scientific advice and information.  

The effective protection and recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale requires long-term, collective commitment from the Government of Canada and other partners. The federal government will continue to work with First Nations, partners, stakeholders, and marine and tourism industry to further our efforts and help their population recover.


“Southern Resident killer whales need our help. That’s why for the sixth straight year we’re taking concrete action with our partners to create a quieter, safer environment for this iconic, vulnerable species.”

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Transport

“Our government is committed to protecting Southern Resident killer whales, and moving towards a safer, quieter ocean environment where they can thrive. The measures announced today are a reflection of the great work we are investing in to understand Southern Resident killer whales and what they need to recover.”

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Southern Resident killer whales are a key species at risk, emblematic of the health of the oceans and marine ecosystem. Our recent actions have improved our ability to find and evaluate sources of contaminants in the environment affecting whales directly or through their prey, which is helping us identify and design additional measures to help this iconic marine mammal survive and thrive.”

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

“The renewal of the conservation agreement to protect endangered southern resident killer whales reaffirms our commitment to work together to reduce threats to whales from commercial shipping. We look forward to building on the strides we've taken through the ECHO Program towards creating quieter and safer waters for the at-risk whales in our region, and we thank the Government of Canada for continuing to fund this important work.”

Peter Xotta
President and Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

“The Southern Resident Killer Whale is a vital component of the local marine ecosystem and has cultural significance for Indigenous peoples and coastal communities in British Columbia. As these creatures face threats to their survival and recovery, we are taking immediate and continuous action to protect them. These measures and investments will help better protect, preserve and restore our marine ecosystems for years to come.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Energy and Natural Resources

Quick facts

  • 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.

  • In May 2024, the Government of Canada renewed A Species at Risk Act Section 11 Conservation Agreement to Support the Recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and industry partners for five years. This formalizes the role of the ECHO Program and partners in developing and implementing voluntary threat reduction measures to support the endangered Southern Resident killer whales.  

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Laurent de Casanove
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

Kaitlin Power
Senior Press Secretary and Communications Advisor
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)

Jérémy Collard
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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