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New measures and funding to protect Southern Resident killer whales

Vancouver, BC –  For the sixth consecutive year, the Government of Canada is implementing measures to protect these whales and restore their population.

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, have announced a series of measures, which came into effect as of June first, 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.  

 (Photo of Killer Whale in Georgia Strait)


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