What we heard - Overview of the Government of Canada consultations on proposed Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery management measures for 2020
On this page
- Consultation process
- Consultation summary
- Feedback themes from engagement and consultation
- Long-term actions in support of Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery
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.
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.
Southern Resident Killer Whale email inbox
Public input on the proposed management measures for 2020 was directed through two dedicated e-mail inboxes: DFO.SRKW-ERS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca and TC.SRKW-ERS.TC@tc.gc.ca . 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.
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:
- BC: the majority of responses received were from BC, and of those, roughly 80% provided their specific location. The highest proportion of responses came from Vancouver Island followed by Vancouver Lower Mainland and the Gulf Islands.
- Nationally: most provinces were represented, with Ontario providing the most responses second to BC. There were no responses from the territories.
- Internationally: some responses were received from the USA (e.g., Washington, Oregon, Ohio). Only one overseas response was received from Belgium.
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:
- Majority support for the area-based fishery closure options to close Subareas 20-3, 20-4 and 121-1 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Option 1B); Subarea 18-9 and portions of 18-2, 18-4 and 18-5; and Subareas 29-6, 29-7, 29-9 and 29-10 in the mouth of the Fraser River (Option 3B).
- Support for a fishing corridor along the shore of area-based fishery closures, regardless of reported area-based fishing closure preference.
- Support for the voluntary, or alternatively mandatory, fishing avoidance zone.
- Concern of socio-economic impact to Vancouver Island tourism industries and small businesses where measures restrict activity.
- Support for a mobile avoidance zone in lieu of fishery closures or sanctuary zones.
- Support for a whale presence trigger in lieu of fixed closure areas and closure dates.
- Concern regarding the efficacy of the closures given the presence of Southern Resident Killer Whales in 2019 and use of these areas.
- Majority support to maintain the boundaries of Interim Sanctuary Zones (ISZs) as they were in 2019 with modifications for safety purposes or removal/additional areas based on use by Southern Resident Killer Whales such as Tumbo Channel.
- Support for the expansion of the Swiftsure ISZ to include the proposed fishery closures in 121-1.
- Support for a 20 metre transit corridor in ISZs to reduce risk and increase safety of transiting human-powered vessels.
- Majority support to implement ISZs for longer periods throughout the year, specifically the Swiftsure ISZ to be in place all year.
- Majority support to apply the 400 metre approach distance year-round and to expand to all Southern Resident Killer Whale range.
- Support for whale watching companies and ecotourism companies with the proper expertise may approach non-Southern Resident Killer Whales up to 200m and avoid watching Southern Resident Killer Whales, yet concern of impacts from whale watching activities on the whales, including requests for bans on whale watching in the Salish Sea.
- Support to align measures and enforcement with the United States.
- Support for more on-water enforcement, outreach, and heavier fines and ticketing to violators.
- Support for First Nations guardian programs and Indigenous rights to fish.
- Support for pinniped management to increase prey availability to Southern Resident Killer Whales.
- Support to limit commercial and recreational fishing of chinook and herring to support prey recovery and availability.
- Support for a total ban of tankers and cargo ships.
- Concern regarding TMX due to concerns regarding Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery.
- Support for increased Chinook hatchery production and allow limited hatchery retention.
- Support for earlier and expanded outreach, increased education to boaters and tourists, and more science and transparency in messaging.
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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