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What we heard - Overview of the Government of Canada consultations on proposed Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery management measures for 2022

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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, seasonal slowdown areas, 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 Indigenous groups, the Indigenous and Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (IMAG), the Southern Resident Killer Whale Technical Working Groups (TWGs), stakeholders and the public to inform the development of the 2022 management measures to address the threats of reduced prey availability (primarily Chinook salmon), 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 (VFPA) Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program (ECHO) to support the development of measures for large commercial vessels. Additionally considered in the development of the 2022 measures were lessons learned from previous years’ measures, existing and new information (including Indigenous knowledge and science), recovery efforts underway in the US, and alignment with other Government of Canada processes such as the southern BC Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.

Consultations with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public on Southern Resident Killer Whale 2022 management measures were conducted jointly by DFO, TC, ECCC and PCA. Here is a list of management measures announced for 2022.

Consultation process

A variety of formats were used to seek feedback on the proposed measures including bilateral and multilateral meetings; correspondence to Indigenous groups, local communities, sectors and other stakeholders; an online public survey; and a dedicated email inbox to receive feedback on the proposed suite of 2022 management measures. Due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, all consultations and engagement took place virtually.

Targeted consultation was conducted from October 2021 to February 2022 with Indigenous groups and stakeholders potentially impacted by the recovery management measures, as well as with the public through an online survey. The first phase of consultations involved reviewing the 2021 management measures and receiving feedback on the potential 2022 management measures with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the TWGs. The second phase of consultations sought input and feedback on the proposed suite of 2022 management measure options to help inform the Ministers in making their decisions.

Consultation summary

Southern Resident Killer Whale email inbox

Input on the proposed management measures for 2022 was directed to one dedicated e-mail inbox Additional feedback was collected through the other venues of the engagement and consultation process.

Written feedback on proposed management measure options was received from January 21, 2022 until March 3, 2022. Approximately 58 written responses were received providing comments on the proposed suite of 2022 management measure options. The comments received varied, with some expressing concerns regarding socio-economic impacts from proposed fishing closures, particularly during a dominant Sockeye salmon run year, and others expressing that greater protection of Southern Resident Killer Whales and their foraging areas was needed. See “Feedback Themes” for more information.

Public survey

The consultation website was available from February 2 to March 2, 2022, and included an online survey to provide written feedback on the proposed management measures for 2022. The survey questions asked participants which 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.

A total of 1,007 online survey responses were received. 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.

Feedback themes from engagement and consultation

Overall themes focused on support for protection of areas where there is a high probability of foraging or occurrence based on recent science; general support for recovery of the population; socio-economic impacts to implicated sectors and local communities; concern regarding efficacy of large spatial closures; and recommendations for additional management action to recover salmon and herring populations through enhancement and habitat restoration, and management of pinniped populations.

The following is a summary of comments and recommendations received from Indigenous groups, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, other governments, coastal communities and the public:

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 continuing to advance long-term actions that address prey availability (such as salmon enhancement, predation considerations, forage fish management and salmon habitat protection and restoration) and physical and acoustic disturbance (such as protected areas, quietening vessels, underwater noise reduction targets, and echo sounder mitigation). The Government of Canada is also advancing actions to tackle the threat of contaminants (such as water and sediment quality guidelines specifically protective of Southern Resident Killer Whales and Chinook salmon, stronger controls on certain substances, and identification of contaminant sources and hotspots).

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