2021 management measures to protect Southern Resident killer whales
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The decline of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population is linked to threats such as noise and disturbance from boats, and reduced availability of their preferred prey, chinook salmon, where wild populations of chinook salmon have declined dramatically in recent years. To address this, we are implementing management measures to protect chinook salmon, a vital food source for Southern Resident killer whales, and to minimize disturbance from vessels. We have also initiated actions to reduce the threat of contaminants.
Fishery management measures include closures to help increase the availability of Chinook salmon and decrease vessel disturbance in key Southern Resident killer whale foraging (feeding) areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Gulf Islands within Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat. Area based fishing closures for commercial and recreational salmon will be in place in a portion of Swiftsure Bank from July 16 to October 31, 2021 and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from August 1 to October 31, 2021.
New for 2021, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will be piloting a new fishing closure protocol for the southern Gulf Islands recreational and commercial salmon fisheries, whereby fishery closures are triggered by the first confirmed presence of Southern Resident killer whales in the area. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Enhancing Cetacean and Observation (ECHO) Program, working closely with its local partners, and the DFO Whale Tracking Network will begin monitoring the area staring June 1, 2021, and once a Southern Resident killer whale is confirmed, fishery closures will be triggered and will remain in place until October 31, 2021.
To further reduce noise and physical disturbance from vessels in portions of Southern Resident killer whale foraging areas, Interim Sanctuary Zones will be in effect from June 1 to November 30, 2021. Specifically, vessel traffic will be prohibited in a portion of Swiftsure Bank and off North Pender and Saturna Islands as per the Interim Order enacted under the Canada Shipping Act. Some exceptions will apply for, for example, vessels involved in Indigenous fishing for food, social or ceremonial purposes and vessels involved in emergency response.
To address vessel disturbance in the presence of whales, a mandatory 400-metre vessel approach distance for all killer whales is in effect until May 31, 2022 in southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet.
The Marine Mammal Regulations remain in effect year-round, and require maintaining a minimum 200 metre approach distance from all killer whales in Canadian Pacific waters other than those described above, and, 100 metres for other whales, porpoises and dolphins or 200 metres when the animal is in resting position or with a calf.
The Government of Canada is addressing the threat of contaminants by strengthening regulations and developing guidelines, increasing research and monitoring, encouraging data sharing, and expanding outreach and education initiatives.
When out on the water, there are also a number of actions you can take voluntarily to protect killer whales, as well as other marine mammals:
- Stop fishing (do not haul gear) within 1000m of killer whales
- Reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 1000m of the nearest marine mammal
- When safe to do so, turn off echo sounders and fish finders
- Place engine in neutral idle and allow animals to pass if your vessel is not in compliance with the approach distance regulations
- For more information on the best ways to help whales while on the water, when on both sides of the border, please visit: bewhalewise.org
Maps of management measures
Regulations and guidance
- Government of Canada continues to strengthen measures to protect Southern Resident killer whales
- Government of Canada announces second year of enhanced measures to protect Southern Resident killer whales
- Species profile: Killer whale Northeast Pacific Southern Resident population
- Killer whale (Northeast Pacific, southern resident population) summary report
- Provide input on potential 2020 management measures to address key threats to Southern Resident killer whales
- Poster: Boating around killer whales
- Postcard: Gulf Islands Interim Sanctuary Zones
- Brochure: Help protect Southern Resident killer whales: Know before you go
- Report to Canadians: Investing in our coasts through the Oceans Protection Plan
- Southern Resident Killer Whale accountability framework: Evaluating support for recovery
- Southern and Northern Resident killer whales need your help
- Boating around killer whales in Coastal BC - Give them space
- Boating around killer whales in Coastal BC - Fisheries closures
- Boating around killer whales in Coastal BC - Interim Sanctuary Zones
- Be Whale Wise
- ECHO Program
- Protecting Canada's Endangered whales
- Protecting our coasts - Oceans Protection Plan
- Parks Canada: Southern Resident killer whale outreach
- Whales Initiative: Protecting the Southern Resident killer whale
- Fisheries management measures to protect Fraser River chinook
- Reducing the threat of contaminants to Southern Resident killer whales
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