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B.C. whales benefit from a 5th year of voluntary efforts through ECHO to reduce noise

January 12, 2022

The ECHO Program, spearheaded by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, has completed its fifth and longest-running season of voluntary initiatives to quantifiably reduce underwater noise that can affect at-risk whales and other marine species.

Participation in all three initiatives exceeded 80% again this year. The voluntarily slowdown of vessels in the Haro Straight and Boundary Pass areas between July and the end of November had a cumulative 90% participation rate. Speeds were reduced along the Swiftsure Bank by a total participation rate of 81% between June and the end of October.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca lateral displacement, which involved taking a slightly different route from June until the start of November to steer clear of a region frequently visited by whales, had an 88% cumulative participation rate.

Participation was high by all major types of maritime transportation, including bulk carriers, vehicle transport, container ships, tankers, and passenger vessels. This year’s success is attributed to the cooperation of the B.C. Coast Pilots, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the major shipping associations, as well as many ship agents, owners and operators throughout the extended season.

The ECHO Program team will gather all the data from this year’s noise reduction efforts and publish the results in the spring.

As many whales continue to be spotted year-round in the Salish Sea, the team encourages mariners to sign up on the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network’s Whale Report Alert System (WRAS) to obtain real-time notifications if whales are present in the region.

Credit: Joan Lopez / Image from VFPA website