2022 management measures to protect Southern Resident killer whales
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, as well as chum and coho salmon. Chinook salmon are a vital food source for Southern Resident killer whales but wild populations have declined dramatically in recent years. To address these threats, we are implementing management measures to protect salmon and to minimize disturbance from vessels. We have also initiated actions to reduce the threat of contaminants.
Maps of management measures
Overview of management measures
Overview of management measures
Mouth of the Fraser River
Mouth of the Fraser River management measures
Gulf Islands management measures
Juan de Fuca
Juan de Fuca management measures
Swiftsure Bank management measures
Area-based fishing closures
Fishery management measures include closures to help increase the availability of salmon and decrease vessel disturbance in key Southern Resident killer whale foraging (feeding) areas off the west coast of Vancouver Island (Swiftsure Bank), the Juan de Fuca Strait, the Gulf Islands, and at the mouth of the Fraser River within Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat.
Area-based fishing closures for commercial and recreational salmon are in place in a portion of Swiftsure Bank from July 15 (or following the expiry of chinook non-retention measures) until October 31, 2022; portions of the Juan de Fuca Strait from August 1 (or following the expiry of chinook non-retention measures) until October 31, 2022. New in 2022, area-based fishing closures will be in place at the mouth of the Fraser River from August 1 to September 30, 2022.
Similar to 2021, a fishing closure protocol will be in effect for the Southern Gulf Islands recreational and commercial salmon fisheries where fishery closures are triggered to be implemented by the first confirmed presence of Southern Resident killer whales in the area. Starting May 5, 2022, the area will be monitored for Southern Resident killer whale presence by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Enhancing Cetacean and Observation (ECHO) Program, working closely with its local partners, and our Whale Tracking Network. Once Southern Resident killer whales are confirmed, their presence will initiate the closures and be in place until October 31, 2022.
Fishers are also asked to voluntarily stop fishing (do not haul gear) within 1000m of killer whales as a best practice to reduce competition for their food and disturbance in their presence.
Interim Sanctuary Zones
To further reduce acoustic and physical disturbance from vessels in key portions of Southern Resident killer whale foraging areas, Interim Sanctuary Zones are in effect from June 1 to November 30, 2022. Specifically, vessel traffic will be prohibited off North Pender and Saturna Islands as per the Interim Order enacted under the Canada Shipping Act. Some exceptions will apply, for example vessels involved in Indigenous fishing for food, social or ceremonial purposes and vessels involved in emergency response.
Seasonal Slowdown Areas
2 new Seasonal Slowdown Areas are being piloted near Swiftsure Bank from June 1 until November 30, 2022. All vessels are required to slow down to a maximum of 10 knots while in the areas with limited exceptions. The first area is in the Protected Fisheries Management Area 121-1 and the second Seasonal Slowdown Area is located near the mouth of the Nitinat River from Carmanah Point to Longitude 125 degrees west. This measure is separate from the voluntary slowdowns coordinated by the ECHO Program.
Voluntary large commercial vessel measures
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority ECHO Program is continuing the voluntary large Commercial Slowdown in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, as well as Swiftsure Bank (inbound and outbound), as well as the lateral displacement in Juan de Fuca Strait.
To address vessel disturbance of killer whales, a mandatory vessel approach distance of never closer than 400m for all killer whales, as per the Interim Order enacted under the Canada Shipping Act, will remain in effect until May 31, 2023 in southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet.
The Marine Mammal Regulations remain in effect year-round. This requires staying:
- 200 metres away from all killer whales in Canadian Pacific waters other than those described above
- 200 metres away from all whales, porpoises and dolphins when in resting position or with a calf
- 100 metres for other whales, porpoises and dolphins
Boating around whales
When out on the water, there are additional 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, on both sides of the border, please visit: Be Whale Wise
The Government of Canada continues to address the threat of contaminants by strengthening regulations, developing guidelines, and increasing research and monitoring. As part of the Government’s effort to share information and data, the Pollutants Affecting Whales and their Prey Inventory Tool (PAWPIT), an interactive mapping tool, is now available online. The tool shows estimates of pollutant releases by all identified sources within the habitats of Northern and Southern Resident killer whales and chinook salmon. The tool also displays estimated ambient contaminant loads in the Fraser River Basin, and indicates where environmental quality guidelines were exceeded.
- Watching marine wildlife
- Parks Canada: Southern Resident killer whale outreach
- Reducing the threat of contaminants to Southern Resident killer whales
- Poster: Earlier monitoring start date for salmon fisheries closures protocol in the Gulf Islands based on Southern Resident Killer Whale presence
- Reports, publications and videos related to the protection of Southern Resident killer whales
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