Noting that Canada has the longest coastline in the world, the federal government announced the launch of Canada’s Whales Initiative in Vancouver on Friday morning.
The announcement was made by federal transportation minister Marc Garneau, who said that through “comprehensive actions,” the $167.4 million initiative – which falls under Budget 2018 – will protect and support the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the North Atlantic right whale, and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whale.
“With more eyes in the sky and ears in the water, the Southern Resident Killer Whale will get additional protection as we work together to reduce threats,” said Garneau. “Human-caused threats, including lack of prey, underwater noise, and contaminants, are things we can address together to help save this iconic species.”
Canada’s Whales Initiative includes immediate and comprehensive action to support their recovery by addressing the main threats they face: lack of prey, disturbance from vessels, including noise and pollution from land-based sources.
The initiative plans to improving prey availability for the Southern Resident Killer Whales by:
- Reducing the total fishery removal for Chinook salmon by 25-35%, to help increase prey availability
- Implementing mandatory fishery closures in specific areas where whales forage for food by closing these areas to recreational finfishing and commercial salmon fishing, and exploring the use of additional regulatory measures
- Increasing scientific research, monitoring and controls of contaminants in whales and their prey, and funding additional research on prey availability
It also will focus on reducing disturbance from underwater vessel noise with new rules and regulations that include:
- Imposing a new mandatory requirement for all marine vessels (including recreational boats) to stay at least 200 metres away from killer whales, effective July 11, 2018
- Asking vessels to move further away from key foraging grounds within shipping lanes of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, and partnering with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program on a voluntary vessel slowdown in Haro Strait starting in July 2018
- Working with BC Ferries to develop a noise management plan to reduce underwater noise impacts of its fleet on killer whales
- Developing the necessary tools to implement mandatory measures where needed to reduce noise from vessel traffic
Enhanced monitoring – both under the water and in the sky – will also take place and include:
- Adding to the under-water hydrophone network in the Salish Sea to better measure noise impacts and track the noise profile of individual vessels
- Increasing aerial surveillance patrols through the Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Fisheries Aerial Surveillance and Enforcement Program to better monitor and enforce new measures