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What we heard - Overview of the Government of Canada consultations on proposed Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery management measures for 2020

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Southern Resident Killer Whales were listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. Southern Resident Killer Whales are an iconic species and supporting their recovery is a key priority for the Government of Canada. In 2018, it was determined that Southern Resident Killer Whales are facing imminent threats to their survival and recovery. In support of their recovery, a number of management measures were implemented, beginning in 2018 and again in subsequent years, including fishery closures, interim sanctuary zones, increased vessel approach distances and voluntary measures for fish harvesters and vessels on the water in the presence of whales.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Transport Canada (TC), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Parks Canada Agency (PCA) worked with the Indigenous and Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (IMAG), the Southern Resident Killer Whale Technical Working Groups (TWGs), Indigenous groups and stakeholders to inform the development of management measures that address reduced Chinook salmon prey availability, general vessel disturbance, contaminants, and the implementation of sanctuaries to mitigate disturbance to Southern Resident Killer Whales. As well, the Government of Canada continued partnering with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program to inform on the develop of measures for Large Commercial Vessels. The advice received informed the development of the 2020 management measures for consultation with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and public. Additionally considered in the development of the 2020 measures were lessons learned from 2018 and 2019 measures, recovery efforts underway in the US, science information, and other Government of Canada processes such as the Southern BC Chinook Committee and southern BC salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan process.

Consultations with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public on Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery management measures for 2020 were conducted jointly by DFO, TC, ECCC and PCA. Here is a list of management measures announced for 2020.

Consultation process

A variety of formats were used to get feedback on the proposed measures including bilateral and multilateral meetings; an electronic public survey; correspondence to Indigenous groups, local communities, sectors and other stakeholders; workbook materials and sessions for Indigenous groups; and webinars on the proposed suite of 2020 management measures.

Targeted consultation was conducted from December 2019 to March 2020 with Indigenous groups and stakeholders potentially impacted by the recovery management measures, as well as public consultation open to any interested party in March 2020. The first phase of consultations involved reviewing the 2019 management measures and receiving feedback on the potential management measures for 2020 with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the Technical Working Groups. This was followed by the second phase of consultations to seek input and feedback on the proposed suite of 2020 management measures to provide information to the Ministers in making their decisions.

Consultation summary

Southern Resident Killer Whale email inbox

Public input on the proposed management measures for 2020 was directed through two dedicated e-mail inboxes: and . Approximately 29 responses were received providing comments on the proposed 2020 management measures. Comments varied with some expressing concern over the socio-economic impacts of proposed measures for 2020 on small coastal communities and businesses, while other comments supported conservation and protection measures to ensure the long-term protection and survival of fish and whale populations, and the associated environmental and ecotourism benefits.

Public survey

The consultation website was launched from March 9, 2020, to March 23, 2020, and included an online survey to provide written feedback on the number of proposed management measures for 2020. The survey questions asked participants which measures and measure options they most supported, whether the proposed measures would benefit or impact their economic, environmental, cultural and/or social interests, as well as a request for feedback regarding education and outreach efforts. Approximately 520 online survey responses were received. The feedback varied but overall the responses were supportive of management measures being implemented for Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery; however, a number of submissions expressed socio-economic concerns.

Geographic distribution of email responses and online surveys

The majority of e-mail and online survey respondents provided location information. Approximately 10% of all respondents were outside BC (nationally and internationally) and roughly 20% of respondents provided no geographical information. Qualitatively, the geographic distribution of responses was as follows:

A significant proportion of national (outside of BC) and international respondents supported the most precautionary approach, including high levels of protection for Southern Resident Killer Whales, benefits to the environment, and long-term protection to wildlife and habitat. Many American respondents vocalized a desire to align transboundary measures and enforcement efforts.

Feedback themes from engagement and consultation

Overall, the feedback received typically centered around three themes: 1) conservation (benefit to Southern Resident Killer Whales), 2) socio-economic impacts due to the measures, and 3) longer-term actions (including habitat protection, chinook and herring fisheries, salmon enhancement, pinniped predation and noise mitigation efforts from vessels or other human activities). The following is a snapshot of the recommendations made:

Long-term actions in support of Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery

While recent efforts have been largely focused on the development of immediate management measures, work is underway to address longer-term actions to protect and support the recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales. The Government of Canada is advancing long-term actions that address prey availability (such as salmon enhancement and habitat restoration), physical and acoustic disturbance (such as protected areas and underwater noise reduction targets), and contaminants (including activities related to further controls on chemical substances, increased research and monitoring, data sharing, and outreach and education).

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