Ships begin slowing down as part of port authority-led whale protection initiative

Jun 1 2023, 4:33 pm
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Starting today, ships en route to the Port of Vancouver are slowing down for the endangered southern resident killer whale population off the coast of British Columbia.

It’s part of the ECHO Program, a world-leading initiative led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to reduce the impacts of commercial shipping on at-risk whales, in collaboration with the marine transportation industry, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups.

For the last seven years, the ECHO Program has successfully encouraged thousands of ships to slow down or move away from key areas where southern resident killer whales forage — helping to create quieter and safer waters for the whales.

Last year, for example, the program’s slowdowns cut underwater noise nearly in half, making it easier for southern resident killer whales to hunt their prey using echolocation.

A new study also shows that the program’s ship slowdowns can cut the risk of ship strikes by nearly a third (27%) compared with normal speeds.

‚ÄúSlowing ships down can not only create a quieter underwater environment for southern resident killer whales to hunt their prey, it can also help lower the risk of whale strikes and reduce emissions from ships within the slowdown areas,‚ÄĚ said Carrie Brown, director of ecosystem management and environmental programs at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

So far, more than 60 marine transportation organizations have confirmed their intention to participate in the ECHO Program’s voluntary measures this year.

Last year, a record-breaking 86% of all large commercial ship transits participated in the ECHO Program’s measures by reducing their speed or moving away from key areas of southern resident killer whale critical habitat.

Launched in 2014, the ECHO Program is one of the ways the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is working to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver within a context of strong environmental protection.

To learn more about the ECHO Program and its ongoing efforts to reduce the impacts of shipping on at-risk whales, visit: www.portvancouver.com/echo.

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