The Southern Resident killer whale is an icon of Canada’s pacific coast and this endangered species has an important cultural significance for Indigenous peoples and coastal communities in British Columbia (B.C.). The Government of Canada has taken strong, consistent action to protect and restore its population and will continue to do so. For the third consecutive year, it will enact 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 Bernadette Jordan, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Minister Responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced protective measures for this year and beyond.
- For the second year, vessels will be prohibited from approaching any killer whale within a 400-meter distance in southern B.C. coastal waters between Campbell River and Ucluelet, including Barkley and Howe Sound. This is in effect year-round until May 31, 2022.
- Re-introducing three interim sanctuary zones off Pender Island, Saturna Island and at Swiftsure Bank, in effect from June 1 to November 30, 2021. No vessel traffic will be permitted in these areas, subject to certain exceptions for emergency situations and Indigenous vessels.
- Putting fishery closures in place for commercial and recreational salmon in a portion of Swiftsure Bank from July 16 to October 31, 2021, and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from August 1to October 31, 2021. These actions will help protect the whales’ access to Chinook salmon with minimal disturbance in key foraging areas.
- The introduction of a new pilot closure protocol for commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in the southern Gulf Islands, whereby fishery closures are triggered by the first confirmed presence of Southern Resident killer whales in the area. Monitoring will begin in the area on June 1, 2021, and once a Southern Resident killer whale is confirmed, fishery closures will be triggered and will remain in place until October 31, 2021.
- 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.
Effectively ensuring the protection and recovery of Southern Resident killer whales requires a long-term, collective effort by the Government of Canada and other 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.
“A healthy biodiversity is essential to our long-term prosperity. That’s why, for the past three years, our government has worked with several partners to help ensure the protection of Southern Resident killer whales. With the recent birth of three new calves, it is imperative that we continue our efforts to ensure a quieter, safer environment for this iconic species.”
The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport
“Our Government has made it our legal and moral duty to protect the iconic Southern Resident killer whale. We’re seeing encouraging results from our enhanced measures, but we’re not stopping there. We will continue to build on our success and work in partnership with industry and Indigenous groups to ensure the survival and growth of this species. The Southern Resident killer whale has called our pacific coast home for thousands of years, and we want to see them endure for generations, and return to their former abundance.”
The Honourable Bernadette Jordan
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“Together, we are protecting the iconic and culturally significant Southern Resident killer whale. Stronger controls and increased monitoring of contaminants is part of the long-term and sustained effort to help these magnificent animals recover and thrive.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“Not only are Southern Resident Killer Whales essential to the culture in British Columbia but healthy whales contribute to a healthy ocean which is vital to the economic prosperity of British Columbia’s coastal and Indigenous communities. Through protection measures, investments in research and collaboration the Government of Canada is ensuring that our oceans are environmentally and economically sustainable for the long term. The ongoing work is essential to setting this iconic species on a path towards recovery.”
Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Member of Parliament for Burnaby North-Seymour
The Minister of Transport will also renew the agreement with the local whale watching and ecotourism industry partners who have committed to once again not offering or promoting tours focused on Southern Resident killer whales.
The 2020 measures resulted in more than 155 enforcement actions. This was fewer violations than in previous years, reflecting a successful educational campaign for boaters during the season. These efforts will be increased this year.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program will also announce measures related to large commercial vessels in the coming weeks.
In 2019, the Government of Canada signed a five-year agreement with industry partners which are part of the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program. This program sees large commercial vessels operating in Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat voluntarily developing and implementing threat reduction measures to support whale recovery.
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 by taking action to address key threats.