March 8, 2019
Vancouver, B.C. – Canada’s whales are iconic and breathtaking animals that are a vital part of our marine ecosystems. They are treasured by Canadians, hold significant cultural value for Indigenous and coastal communities, and boost local economies that rely on tourism. The Government of Canada is committed both to conserving whales and to strengthening our economy. We are taking action in collaboration with three Canadian universities to better understand the pressures facing endangered whales and to protect them from further harm.
Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that the University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University and the Université du Québec à Montréal will receive a total of $2.9 million in funding, under the Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative, for scientific research on the Southern Resident Killer Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale and St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga.
A joint initiative between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Whale Science for Tomorrow will strengthen the ability of Canadian universities to support the Government of Canada’s whale conservation objectives, while preparing the next generation of scientists to ensure the long-term conservation and recovery of these endangered whales. The investment will enable Canadian whale experts to advance our knowledge of the threats that face these magnificent marine mammals. Our improved understanding will provide decision-makers and policy advisors with the information they need to develop innovative solutions to support enhanced recovery efforts. This investment will support approximately 24 jobs in the next two to four years.
Three research projects, selected by a volunteer evaluation committee of representatives from academic and non-academic institutions, will receive investments under the Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative. These projects will encompass a range of activities:
- Researchers from Dalhousie University will advance North Atlantic Right Whale assessment and monitoring technology to quantify risks and develop solutions to protect these whales in a changing ocean environment. Eight jobs will be supported by this investment.
- University of British Columbia researchers will employ a variety of methods, including tracking and monitoring, to determine if Southern Resident Killer Whales are able to forage for enough of their preferred prey, Chinook Salmon, to meet their daily nutritional needs. Five jobs will be supported by this investment.
- Researchers from the Université du Québec à Montréal will use innovative techniques to advance their knowledge of the exposure of St. Lawrence Estuary Belugas to marine contaminants and assess the impacts on this population. Eleven jobs will be supported by this investment.
The new partnerships and scientific results produced by these research initiatives will strengthen decision-making, resource management and conservation strategies to support the recovery of these whales in Canadian waters.
“The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the North Atlantic Right Whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga. Our investment today in science and research will contribute to the increased protection of these extraordinary creatures. I believe that by working together, we will advance our knowledge and find more solutions to the challenges facing these whales.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“The Government of Canada is committed to research and using science-based evidence as the foundation for everything we do. The researchers we are celebrating today will collect crucial data to help us better understand the threats facing our endangered marine mammals. Their work will ensure we make the right decisions to protect Canada’s species and the environment surrounding them.”
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport
“NSERC is pleased to collaborate with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to advance research and development in Canadian universities to protect our endangered marine mammals and to train future researchers in this field. Congratulations to all recipients. We are proud to be a part of this partnership, which is helping to preserve the remarkable nature that Canada has to offer.”
Dr. Marc Fortin, Vice-President of Research Partnerships, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
“This is excellent news for the entire Dalhousie research team and especially for the conservation of the North Atlantic Right Whale. This funding is critically important for the many bright, young ocean researchers involved, who do a large share of the work by building on our many advances to date. This research will further fortify our interagency collaboration among many governmental, non-governmental, industrial and academic agencies, each of which is dedicated to mitigating human threats to right whales.”
Dr. Christopher Taggart, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University
“There is an urgent need to determine whether Southern Resident Killer Whales are getting enough to eat in British Columbia. Our research will answer this question by tracking the movements of fish and whales and determining the effects of environmental change, fishing pressure and vessel disturbance on nutritional status. This funding will broaden the base of recovery research in Canada, accelerate the development of marine mammal scientists and ultimately increase the scientific information available to support government decision-making and conservation efforts for this endangered species.”
Dr. Andrew Trites, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia
“Funding from the Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative will allow our team to support government decision-making and conservation efforts for the recovery strategy of the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga population. Our research will also provide essential information to policymakers that could ultimately impact the management of new chemical substances that accumulate in the tissues of this endangered beluga population.”
Dr. Jonathan Verreault, Department of Biological Sciences, Université du Québec à Montréal
Many whale populations face multiple threats, such as vessel collisions, gear entanglements, a scarcity of prey, underwater noise, marine debris and other ocean contaminants.
The total funding for the Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative is $2,904,364, with contributions of $2,604,364 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and $300,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting endangered marine mammals, including the Southern Resident Killer Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale and St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga. A number of programs under the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan and the $167 million Whales Initiative support the conservation and recovery of these species.
Over the past two years, we have dedicated millions under the Oceans Protection Plan in projects that offer tangible protections for marine mammals. For example:
- To date, a total of $18.5 million has been announced to support 13 projects across British Columbia to help restore coastal aquatic habitats that will benefit a number of key species, such as Chinook salmon, and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale.
- We funded research projects with partners to understand the impacts of underwater noise on endangered whales, including the North Atlantic Right Whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga.
- We also announced $7.2 million in funding to support the increased use of world-renowned digital hydrophone and oceanographic technologies that will benefit our coastal environment, help us better understand the underwater acoustic environment, and inform mitigation strategies to protect marine mammals.
Through the Whales Initiative, the Government of Canada is addressing the main threats to the Southern Resident Killer Whale by improving prey availability, reducing disturbances from underwater vessel noise, enhancing monitoring under the water and in the air, encouraging compliance and strengthening enforcement, and building partnerships for additional action.