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Vancouver port authority supports government in protecting killer whales

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Dry Bulk,

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority welcomes additional measures recently announced by government to broaden and strengthen the protection of the southern resident killer whale population. The announcement was made by Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Sean Fraser, Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau.

The continued focus by the Government of Canada is an important step towards the protection and recovery of this endangered species, and supports the collaborative research and management initiatives of the port authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program.

The ECHO Program was established in 2014 with the aim of better understanding and reducing ship-related threats to at-risk whales, including the southern resident killer whales. This summer, with high levels of participation from the marine transportation industry, ECHO Program partners supported two underwater noise reduction initiatives, both of which wrapped up at the end of October.

Now in its second year, the voluntary vessel slowdown initiative asked operators of cargo ships transiting Haro Strait to slow their ships when killer whales arrived for the season in this important foraging area. Results from the 2017 slowdown trial demonstrated that slowing ship speed can be an effective way of reducing the underwater noise generated by ships, thereby making it easier for whales to use sound to locate their prey.

In partnership with many Canadian and US ECHO Program partners, a second initiative asked vessel operators to move as far south as possible in the shipping lanes of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to increase the distance between ships and whales and reduce underwater noise levels in known killer whale feeding areas.

The high participation rates and leadership demonstrated by industry partners during both of these initiatives illustrates how much action can be achieved through well designed, collaborative voluntary measures.

Underwater microphones have been recording underwater noise levels in Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca since early this year and analysis of results is now underway. Final reports are expected in spring 2019.

“With the ongoing support of the Government of Canada, the port authority and our ECHO Program partners can continue to work to better understand how we can reduce the impacts of marine shipping on southern resident killer whales,” said Duncan Wilson, vice-president of corporate social responsibility at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

“Our industry partners’ participation is integral to taking action on the water to reduce the impact of ships. Together, we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to support the efforts of government to recover and protect the southern resident killer whale and to ensure Canada’s largest port operates in a responsible and sustainable manner that safeguards and promotes continual protection of the environment.”

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